How Green Is Your Finance?

Interest has been growing in how to structure financial systems to support sustainability.  The term “green finance” is used to refer to financial instruments, services or activity which result in positive change for the environment and society over the long term.

The drive to green finance is being driven by investor demand; ambitious societal objectives (such as the Paris agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals); the rise of new financial instruments (such as green bonds); and improved understanding of risk through enhanced analytics and reporting.

Green finance is starting to move from a niche product to a mainstream activity, with financial centres around the world vying with each other to attract green money.

So far, so good. But how are the various financial centres doing?

The Global Green Finance Index (GGFI) is an exciting initiative from Long Finance in association with Finance Watch and the Mava Foundation. With the Global Green Finance Index we hope to shine a light on green finance activity by ranking the world’s financial centres on the quality and depth of their green finance offerings.

The index will be constructed using a number of existing indices in combination with a survey of senior industry figures from around the world. Full details of the methodology can be found here.

The intention behind the GGFI is to:

  • Define green financing and green finance criteria;
  • Enable financial centres to enhance the range and depth of their offerings;
  • Showcase and share best practice in green financing; and
  • Create a “race to the top” which will catalyse the growth of green finance, improve policy makers’ and other stakeholders’ understanding of what makes, a financial centre ‘green’ and shape the financial system to support, sustainability goals.

You can participate in the survey here. We would love to have as wide a range of views as is possible to improve the richness of the data available.

We aim to publish the initial Global Green Finance Index in Spring 2018 with further editions following at six month intervals to build a picture of how financial centres are responding to the challenge of making a difference to the sustainability of our economies.

Prof Micael Mainelli – Z/Yen Group Ltd

 

New Year Resolution?

Happy New Year to all our readers!  This opening blog for 2018 may not be full of traditional good cheer, but it is an important and timely reminder that action is needed by us all NOW if we are to get the world we all want for future generations.  These short extracts from the second “warning” to humanity issued in Nov 2017 (and supported by 15364 scientists from 184 countries across the world) might perhaps help to shape our New Year Resolutions for 2018:

“As most political leaders respond to pressure, scientists, media influencers, and lay citizens must insist that their governments take immediate action as a moral imperative to current and future generations of human and other life. With a groundswell of organized grassroots efforts, dogged opposition can be overcome and political leaders compelled to do the right thing. It is also time to re-examine and change our individual behaviours…..

Sustainability transitions come about in diverse ways, and all require civil-society pressure and evidence-based advocacy, political leadership, and a solid understanding of policy instruments…..

To prevent widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss, humanity must practice a more environmentally sustainable alternative to business as usual. This prescription was well articulated by the world’s leading scientists 25 years ago, but in most respects, we have not heeded their warning. Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out. We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home.”

Read the full text of the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice” here

We are stronger together – people and trees

The Tree Charter goes live!

On a chilly November evening  800 years to the day the Charter of the Forest was reborn as the Woodland Trust unveiled its new Charter for Trees Woods and People. Over 18 months in the making, based on work across hundreds of organisations and communities the ten point charter is a thing of beauty and inspiration. Written in oak gall ink (derived from “oak apples” or oak galls – the same ink that was used write the Magna Carta and original 1217 Charter of the Forest) it inspires both support and action.

The Charter encourages communities, individuals, businesses, landowners, planners and government to sustain landscapes for wildlife, to plant for the future to celebrate and protect trees and woods and plan greener spaces for all.

As we gathered in the dark, lead by lantern bearing children to watch the unveiling of the Charter Pole in Lincoln Castle grounds it was inspiring to see the new handwritten Charter nestling against pages from the original 1217 Charter of the Forest. While this may seem a poetic flight of fancy, the Charter has real significance for law firms and the LSA has scoped out a practical response to the ten calls within it. Our ten practical actions range from reducing paper consumption, ensuring sustainable supply chains, advocating for stronger protection of trees through to ensuring social justice around access to trees.

Read the full charter on the Woodland Trust website and download our Tree Charter briefing for law firms here

Why Circular Economy Products are Better than New

Dr Greg Lavery is the Managing Director of Rype Office

 

The Circular Economy has seen rapid technical advancements enabling remanufactured products to look and perform as new, while bringing a range of other desirable benefits.

Here are 5 reasons why circular economy/remanufactured products are better than those made from virgin resources:

1.  Cost Savings

Raw material costs, processing costs (refining, shaping, coating, finishing) and the margins at every step in a virgin resource product’s supply chain, are expensive.

For remanufacturing, where a product is disassembled at the component level (rather than into separate materials) and broken/out-dated parts are replaced and then the item reassembled, the cost saving is around HALF of the list price of the same product from virgin resources.

This is illustrated in the exposé Office Furniture Costs, which compares the costs of virgin and remanufactured office furniture.

A second example is office photocopiers, which now see service with seven different clients, on average. Remanufacturing has enabled leading photocopier companies to reduce their price to customers without compromising their margins or the reliability of their machines

2.  Lower Structural Failure Rates

Design flaws and flaws in materials are difficult to identify during manufacturing and inspection, but lead to expensive and dangerous structural failures early in the first life of products from virgin resources. Having these failures from micro-cracks, inclusions, and design flaws occur in the first life of a product means a much reduced risk of occurrence in subsequent lives.

For example, Caterpillar remanufactures engines for heavy equipment. The UK Department of Defence deploys these engines in war zones, where the DoD benefits from the proven durability and quality of Caterpillar’s remanufactured engines in life-and-death situations

3. Provenance

Previous lives give stories and character to products. Would you like to sit every day at a desk from James Bond’s MI6 office?

Public Health Wales’ Cardiff office desks from the Bond movie Spectre – some of the 94% of 2,500 items of furniture refurbished or remanufactured for the fitout

Italian leather sofas once sat on by billionaires at a leading London private equity firm now form a luxurious meeting space in the offices of NAOS, a cosmetics company.

NAOS office breakout area

Elvis and Kresse creates luxury accessories from used fire hoses, with the fire hoses proudly showing their heritage; this is part of the appeal of the items.

Elvis and Kresse products made from end-of-life fire hoses

Sadly, many interior designers looking for heritage choose reproduction furniture made from virgin resources of inferior quality to the original versions, often artificially distressed using toxic chemicals. In an office, this sends a number of undesirable messages to staff and visitors which challenge the authenticity of the company’s brand. At the same time, original pieces are being sent to landfill.

Here is how Artek (the store selling products designed by Finnish designer Alvar Aalto) describes its furniture: “As Artek products are made out of natural materials they age gracefully and gain patina over time. They tell the story of both the product and the users it has seen.”

4.  Good local jobs

Remanufacturing and the circular economy require products to be disassembled, checked, repaired and then reassembled – requiring twice the labour of assembly alone. This generates additional local jobs than assembly from virgin parts.

These jobs require judgement and skill to diagnose and repair problems, which vary from item to item. This type of work is ideal for those new to the workforce (such as long term unemployed) because the variety exists within boundaries, allowing technicians to grow in confidence in the workforce while being presented with new challenges to solve on every item being remanufactured.

For example, eight long term unemployed with disabilities were employed on the Public Health Wales Cardiff office fitout to remanufacture office furniture and fit reclaimed flooring. Thanks in part to this experience, three of these are now in full time jobs.

5.  Environmental sustainability

Because undamaged parts are checked, resurfaced and reused, remanufacturing reduces the environmental costs of products, on average, by 80%[1]. This means that they use 80% fewer virgin resources and, by extension, 80% lower biodiversity loss, energy & water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, transport requirements and waste associated with extraction, refining, shaping, coating and finishing these materials.

Remanufacturing and the circular economy also captures a waste stream, reducing landfill.

 

Tracey Cooper, CEO of Public Health Wales, noted: “Once you have used remanufactured products, there is no going back – why would you?”.  Public Health Wales has recently completed the fitout of another office, this time in Swansea, increasing the percentage of refurbished/remanufactured furniture to 95%.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr Greg Lavery is the Managing Director of Rype Office, which helps clients to create beautiful, productive offices at substantial cost savings through good design and by using remanufactured and sustainable office furniture. Email [email protected] or phone 033 3358 3330.

 

[1] Giuntini, R., Gaudette, K. Remanufacturing: The next great opportunity for boosting US productivity, Business Horizons, Nov-Dec 2003, p. 44; McKenna, R. President and CEO, Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, Testimony before the International Trade Commission on: Remanufactured Goods: An Overview of the U.S. and Global Industries, Markets, and Trade, Investigation No. 332-525, Feb 2012.

 

SDG 12: Why this UN goal should provide guidance to businesses, especially law firms

Eliza Bond, LSA Intern

The United Nations has long been criticised for generality, idealism and impotence – the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), launched in 2015, have not been exempt from this criticism. More specifically, SDG 12 –‘ensur[ing] sustainable consumption and production’ is said to obfuscate the ever-growing nature of global demand. However, we believe that the goals of SDG 12 are not only feasibly achievable by 2030, but can be implemented in a cost-effective manner in a corporate environment such as a law firm.

SDG 12 itself centres upon the basic premise of the ‘3 Rs’: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. It encourages both consumers and producers to adopt sensible and sustainable practices in order to mitigate the disastrous impact that we humans have been having on the environment. We believe that this clause embodies the spirit of the entire agenda as it directly addresses the important role that businesses play in curbing over-consumption and production, as well as the role that companies play in influencing consumer behaviour.

So, what is the relevance of all this to law firms specifically, given that they are largely in a services industry? We believe this application is twofold: firstly, law firms, big or small, are corporate entities that can set good precedent for other businesses. Taking simple steps such as using recycled paper, switching to digital and sourcing sustainable food (for example) not only improve law firms’ CSR reputation, but also encourages other businesses to do the same, whether they are in the legal industry or not. The collaborative difference is therefore extremely significant. Secondly, due to lawyers’ close interaction with all different aspects of society, we believe that they can play a profound role in influencing consumer behaviour.

Arguably, in a globalised world, corporations have more power to affect the actions and conduct of society as a whole. For example, Wragge & Co, a UK-headquartered international law firm, not only took initiatives to reduce their own waste and consumption, such as default double-sided printing and e-filing, but also launched an advocacy campaign. A mini-documentary and a paper mountain of 467144 sheets of paper proved a persuasive reminder on the need for both corporations and consumers to change their behaviour.

In particular, Linklaters have been leading the way in this initiative to make SDG 12 part of the spirit and policy of the firm. Since 2010, emissions from the firm’s purchased electricity have reduced by 35%, and 65% of this is sourced from renewable supplies. Our 10-year Anniversary Report shows that emissions have reduced by 15% per person across LSA member firms with an average cost saving of £130 per employee for electricity emissions. This demonstrates that the goal of reducing consumption and production is not only possible within a corporate context, but makes firms more productively efficient. Significantly, client demand is in evidence, too.  For example, Linklaters reported that last year that over 30 clients asked how the firm manages environmental sustainability, reiterating the point that the impact of adopting sustainable policies, in accordance with SDG 12, has an impact on consumer behaviour.

Eliza Bond is a guest blogger and summer intern at the LSA, and will be reading Law at Jesus College, Cambridge, beginning in October 2017

Air travel in the legal sector: Time for a change in culture?

[Eliza Bond is a guest blogger and summer intern at the LSA, and will be reading Law at Jesus College, Cambridge, beginning in October 2017]

Despite seeing a marked decline in overall carbon footprints of LSA members since our inception 10 years ago, it seems we have gained little traction in reducing air travel, with the average km per head still at 4,000. Although we have access to the technology to prompt the shift towards this reduction, law firms – for the most part – are reticent to take the plunge. Perhaps this is an indication that the problem is not practical, it’s cultural.

With traditional business practice reliant on face-to-face interactions, as well as the added importance of client relations in the legal industry, it is little surprise that air travel has become a necessity. Not only this, but with international travel acting as an incentive to climb up the employment ladder, there is an expectation that jetting across the globe is an afforded luxury gained when someone becomes a more senior lawyer. Although this problem may be to some extent mitigated by a generation of millennials – many of whom are technologically and environmentally minded – entering more senior positions, law firms need to take the initiative themselves and not rely on a gradual shift that may or may not occur.

Having said this, many firms have made giant leaps in introducing new technologies to reduce the reliance on air travel. For instance, in 2009 DLA Piper launched Telepresence, heralded as the ‘future of law communications’, in many of their US branches such as Baltimore, New York and Washington DC.  This has now been expanded to the majority of their offices globally. Further still, in 2013 they launched a strategic internal initiative to reduce transport costs, which increased their usage of Lync, an instant messaging tool by 75%. We believe that with an increasingly globalized industry as a result of international mergers, other LSA members must follow in the DLA Piper’s footsteps.

Similarly, although only at a national level in the UK, Bond Pearce (which became part of Bond Dickinson in 2014) introduced HD conferencing units in 2007, saving over 165840 miles of travelling. There is little reason for this kind of technology not to be applied on an international scale.

Obviously, this kind of change cannot be unilateral. It not only requires the co-operation of multiple branches and firms, but also the co-operation of clients. Some matters ought and need to be settled face-to-face – this is accepted. Yet the majority of meetings do not need this kind of formality, especially in a world where the technology is so accessible and user-friendly. With several firms such as Morgan’s Solicitors, Burges Salmon and Nicholas Moore adopting policies to reduce commuter travel at a small scale, and indeed reaping the benefits of such changes such as reducing average emissions per employee, law firms urgently need to address their biggest contributor of carbon emissions.

Although at first it may be difficult to change the attitude towards eliminating air travel, it can soon become routine and will not only be extremely valuable for a company’s public relations and CSR records, but will also reduce costs which are, to some extent, unnecessary.

       

Guest blogger:  Merrow Golden, pupil at Francis Taylor Building and conference newcomer

[UKELA is the leading membership organisation for anyone interested in environmental law and organises events and CPD for environmental and legal professionals. The LSA and UKELA have synergies and some shared membership. UKELA’s annual conference – this year in Nottingham – is a great way to get to know the network. Click here for more information about what’s on offer and how to join.]

What better place to hold this year’s UKELA conference, entitled “Cities of the Future”, than in Nottingham – a city dating back to Anglo-Saxon times, whose previous inhabitants had lived in sandstone caves, but which in 2017 transported eager conference attendees to the sign-in desks by public trams and biogas buses.  In light of the world’s growing city-based populations, the conference attempted to tackle the key challenges facing modern-day cities, not least the challenge of sustainable living.

Activities began with a welcome by the outgoing Chair, Stephen Sykes, who introduced and congratulated incoming Chair, Anne Johnstone, before handing over to the two keynote speakers, Dr Alfonso Vegara (via video-address) and Dr Richard Miller, both of whom suggested a number of innovative approaches to sustainable urban living in the modern world.

The insight continued into the first plenary session, chaired by Maria Adebowale-Schwarte, (Director of the Living Space Project). Discussion ranged from tackling air quality in London (Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor on Climate Change, London) to new ways of combining flood-risk management with open spaces and making the impossible possible (one can now swim in the Copenhagen Harbour!) (Christian Nerup Nielsen, Director, Ramboll Water); and, from the complications of planning controls around the world (Robert Lewis-Lettington, UN-HABITAT) to the cities of the future (Professor Peter Sharratt, University of Westminster and WSP).

Attendees were then treated to updates, both at home and abroad, chaired by the Rt. Hon Lord Carnwath of Notting Hill.  Brexit first, and here we were guided by Professor Richard Macrory and Andrew Bryce who gave an overview of the impressive and crucial work ongoing by the UKELA Brexit Task Force.  Next, the US and a window into what the Trump administration could mean for environmental law, skilfully provided by Seth Davies (Chair of the American Bar Association’s, Section of Environmental Energy and Resources).

There was just time for the UKELA AGM and a quick break before the evening’s festivities began.  James Burton and Kirsty Schneeburger mastered the way through a city-themed quiz (challenging even the best minds in the room…) and there was live music from Nottingham’s own “Pesky Alligators” (the latter continuing on into the early hours!).

After a few strong cups of coffee we were into day two. Beginning with a discussion on legal and regulatory tools for sustainable cities, chaired by Anne Johnstone. Mike Barlow (Burges Salmon) addressed the “carrots and sticks” being used to achieve energy efficiency in building design and David Elvin QC (Landmark Chambers) considered the scope for use of compulsory purchase powers in regeneration projects.  What can be achieved in practice through thoughtful design and planning of sustainable places was highlighted by Phillip Villars (Managing Director, Indigo Planning) but, crucially, we were reminded of what can, and has, gone wrong with bad planning and inadequate resources by Hugh Ellis (Town and Country Planning Association).

A detailed, yet wide-ranging, case law update was provided by Richard Honey (Francis Taylor Building) before we turned our attention to the future with the final plenary discussion chaired by David Hart QC (1 Crown Office Row).  Attendees were treated to insights into current hot topics of air quality and transport (Ravi Mehta, Blackstone Chambers and Mark Daly, Nottingham City Council) and flooding and drainage (Estelle Palin, Environment Agency and James Dodds, Managing Director, Envireau), picking up on lessons learnt and ideas for moving forward.

The afternoon was filled with engaging working party sessions, covering an array of subjects from Wild Law to Climate Change and Energy and followed by a choice of local activities in and around Nottingham.

Finally, the event drew to a close in style with a beautiful gala dinner held at Nottingham Castle on a warm summer’s evening.  Built in 1068, and still going strong, the Castle provided a perfect location to reflect on the weekend’s discussions for future city-planning and to top it off John Henry Looney (Founder and Managing Director, Sustainable Direction Ltd) gave a thought-provoking speech, in which he challenged us all to challenge ourselves and the extent to which our own lives are sustainable.

 

Hope for the future

Within hours of President Trump pulling the USA out of the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change, it was heartening to see dozens of large businesses reaffirm their commitment to the terms of the agreement – BP, Shell, Nike, Tesla, Microsoft and IBM are some of the well known household brands who are prepared to put the future of the planet above personal or political motivations.

The leaders of those organisations know that we have no option. They, as Barack Obama said, have already chosen a low carbon future. His statement, quoted here in full, gives all those who are committed to taking responsible action a degree of hope that all the good work of Paris will not be lost.

“A year and a half ago, the world came together in Paris around the first-ever global agreement to set the world on a low-carbon course and protect the world we leave to our children.

It was steady, principled American leadership on the world stage that made that achievement possible. It was bold American ambition that encouraged dozens of other nations to set their sights higher as well. And what made that leadership and ambition possible was America’s private innovation and public investment in growing industries like wind and solar – industries that created some of the fastest new streams of good-paying jobs in recent years, and contributed to the longest streak of job creation in our history.

Simply put, the private sector already chose a low-carbon future. And for the nations that committed themselves to that future, the Paris Agreement opened the floodgates for businesses, scientists, and engineers to unleash high-tech, low-carbon investment and innovation on an unprecedented scale.

The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created. I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack. But even in the absence of American leadership; even as this Administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got”

Science Based Targets

More and more organisations are beginning to look at setting greenhouse gas emission targets in line with climate science as a way to future-proof growth (the shorthand for this is “Science Based Targets” or SBTs).  So far, according to the Science Based Target Initiative, 265 companies are taking action around SBTs, with 44 setting approved targets.  These include a range of organisations but there are many big names in the list who will be familiar to a lot of LSA Members.  To me, the logic behind the need for SBTs seems relatively simple: (1) Do I accept that anything more than a 2 degree C rise in global temperature will have a disastrous impact on our life on earth? (2) Do I accept that carbon emissions from man-made sources are driving global temperature up?  (3) Do I agree that science can help to tell us what reduction in emissions each sector needs to achieve the level of decarbonisation needed to keep temperature rise to below 2 degrees C? (4) Do I agree that setting an appropriate target based on this science makes good sense?  If my answer to each of (1) to (4) is YES, then it may be the right time for my firm or organisation to think about setting a science based target.

The steps which the Science Based Target Initiative suggest to set a SBT are pretty straightforward – Commit to doing it; Develop a target; Submit your SBT for scrutiny; Announce you’ve done it.  There are plenty of tools, tips and techniques available – we would love to hear the thoughts and experiences of LSA member firms and their clients who may be considering setting a SBT or even done so already.

 

The Business Case for Sustainability in the Legal Sector

Steve Malkin, CEO of Planet First and Founder of The Planet Mark™

I recently heard a board-level target that sought to increase margins by reducing by a net 1% the cost of travel through resource efficiency, vehicle procurement and behaviour change. These, the board considered, fell into the remit of sustainability because that is where business value was being generating. The company in question has seen double-digit growth whilst reducing its carbon per employee annually for seven years.

The board’s action demonstrated to me that this business really got sustainability; not only is it reducing its operational costs, but it is using these achievements to enhance its reputation and is winning more business as a result.

The company in question is not from the legal profession, but that is not the point. Sustainability works across all sectors primarily because of three challenges faced by any business – and sustainability addresses all three. They are:

1. Reputational enhancement

2. Customer attraction

3. Talent acquisition and retention.

There is a fourth challenge: cost saving. This is often less of challenge in the services sector, then say in manufacturing and construction. Nevertheless, I have not yet experienced a case where cost saving is not seen as a benefit in the service sector, so communicating cost saving and payback periods of sustainability initiatives are always important.

Challenges of the legal profession

Experience tells me that the legal profession is no different from any other sector in terms of facing these common challenges. Where it may differ from other sectors is in its approach to sustainability.

Firstly, I would say that it is crudely split in two when it comes to sustainability: those who have been developing sustainable practices and reporting for some time on them and those that are just starting out. (Apologies for the lack of nuance).

The challenge, as I see it, for the former group is that many think that sustainability is being addressed, that processes are in place and, much like health and safety, it is mainstream. The reality is that sustainable practices are often not embedded and business travel, and especially flights, remain a major issue. The challenge here is often cultural and it is likely that attitudes will not change until driven by either customer demand or when a new generation of partners gain traction.

For legal practices new to sustainability, the issues are often around bandwidth and internal resource. Typically, sustainability is the remit of a service department but it will only be successfully implemented once it has the full commitment from the fee earners.

For both groups, the unifying challenge is often how to shift the culture of an organisation and encourage behaviour change. Fully communicating the business benefits in terms of risk and opportunity is the starting point.

The Planet Mark™ puts forward a business case that directly connects positive impacts on society and the environment with cost savings, alignment with customer values and opportunities to win business. When you set targets and quantify your progress, by reducing your carbon emissions, for example, you provide evidence of your values in action. External verification of your progress in sustainability enables you to communicate with confidence.

Sustainability opens opportunities to talk about the way you do business, your expertise and your company culture. You will see the benefit to your reputation, your talent acquisition and attraction of new customers. Besides which, the world of sustainability needs a well-informed legal sector to navigate the transition to a low carbon, more sustainable future. What better way to play that role than to fully embrace sustainability within your own workplace?

About The Planet Mark™:  Founded three years ago with the iconic Eden Project in Cornwall, UK, The Planet Mark™ is awarded to businesses, properties, new developments and projects that are committed to reducing their carbon emissions.  Since it launched in 2013, The Planet Mark™ has certified over 100 organisations and delivered an average carbon emissions reduction of 5% per employee per annum for its clients. Planet Markcertified businesses have a minimum requirement to reduce their carbon emissions by 2.5% per year. To find out more click here.

NOTE:  The LSA and The Planet Mark™ are running specialist workshops from June this year.  See more in the Events section of the LSA website.  Steve says: “Sustainability programmes are really about good business practice.  Doing the right thing delivers fast and far-reaching positive impacts on society, the environment and profitability. These specialist workshops gather the latest expertise and are a must-attend for practices across the UK”

To access a calendar of sustainability events for 2017, click here