Travers Smith LLP have featured in the Lawyer.com this month having reduced carbon emissions by over 10 tonnes CO2e in the first few months of implementing ISO 50001. They achieved this by carefully understanding how different elements of their building could be powered down and co-operating together on a plan for home working over the Christmas period. This achievement stands out. Comparable periods of low occupancy such as during the pandemic often produced only limited savings for law firms.
For LSA members Travers Smith, a significant milestone was reached this month with the achievement of ISO 50001 – the international standard for energy management. For most Law firms, energy management is an important subject and almost the entire source of scope 1 & 2 Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
“Attaining ISO 50001 has been a significant achievement for us,” said Paul Mullis, Sustainability Officer at Travers Smith, “The achievement sets the foundation for continuous improvement and going forward, our commitment is not only to maintain this certification, but to continually improve our energy management and performance. With this understanding, we’ve been able to establish energy-saving campaigns and initiatives – directly reducing our Greenhouse Gas emissions”.
Careful management of energy use is known to have all sorts of benefits and has been at the centre of many LSA talking points over the years. The subject has again come to the fore in more recent times with energy costs more than doubling for many law firms, coupled with the drive to reduce scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions.
Paul is more than aware of the benefits to establishing a best practice methodology.
‘’Obtaining these certifications are not an end in themselves, rather, they are part of our broader strategy to implement sustainable practices and reduce our environmental footprint. We see these certifications as stepping stones to even greater sustainability achievements in the future.”
We spoke to Mike Harvey, Head of Responsible Business and Sharon Smith, Head of Learning & Knowledge for Climate & Sustainability at Pinsent Masons about how they harnessed the SDGs to inspire colleagues and clients to engage with their responsible business agenda. LSA member firm Pinsent Masons is a multinational law firm which specialises in the energy, infrastructure, financial services, real estate and technology, science & industry sectors.
Having signed up to the UN Global Compact, both Mike Harvey and Sharon Smith wanted to accelerate progress.
“We were both passionate about the SDGs and felt we should be doing more. The initial step was to raise awareness about SDGs – what we do as a firm, what our clients are doing and what we do as individuals.”
The Sustainable Development Goals are 17 interlinked goals designed to serve as a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.” They are ambitious and radical. They act as a comprehensive pathway and were the first of their kind to achieve global consensus, a magnificent example of negotiation and perseverance, a multi-stakeholder engagement process involving governments, businesses, intergovernmental organisations and civil society. It helps that they come with recognisable visuals which are engaging and easy to use. In fact the simple graphics are quickly becoming iconic.
“The SDGs are a useful framework to talk to our clients and suppliers – a common language that we all work to and a tool to build deeper relationships.”
“With things that are going on in the world it can feel like ‘it’s out of my control’. The SDGs can help people feel empowered. They can help people find purpose and meaning in what they are doing. It can help to build morale and a sense of community.”
Each of the SDGs represents a complex but important area. The team ran an internal survey asking, amongst other things, what is your awareness of the SDGs? Awareness was low, but they sensed there was an appetite to find out more. Mike and Sharon decided that the key to building an enduring and resilient campaign was to spend a month on each SDG, but not to be limited by this schedule. If one SDG remained relevant for longer, because of an international event or diary date, then the schedule would facilitate that.
Certain SDGs seemed to fit certain times of the year – for example SDG 2 – Zero Hunger was scheduled to coincide with Christmas and incorporated the work that they were already doing with food banks and schools. SDG 14 – Life Below Water, fitted in with Plastic Free July and SDG 13 – Climate Action ran alongside the UNFCCC COP.
An SDG Working Group including Mike, Sharon and members from the firm’s Spark Board and Responsible Business team was set up to work on campaign actions, and SDG Champions, including senior partners and managers at the firm, volunteered to champion specific SDGs. They used MS Viva Engage to share internal communications, including YouTube video explainers to engage with colleagues.
The team set KPIs to measure impact, the key one being – would individuals in the firm start talking about the SDGs independently of the campaign? Monitoring social media and internal comms they soon realised this was happening. That was a moment of celebration! The campaign, which both admit was a learning process, had evolved into a grassroots movement.
“We decided it would be a slow burn – a longer process. We wanted to combine the SDG campaign with other initiatives so they all joined up. We didn’t want this to be just another campaign.”
The campaign kicked off by using the SDGs as an umbrella to unite responsible business activities and raise awareness, but the team soon found that the framework was highlighting areas in which they could do more, which in turn inspired them to engage internationally and find commonalities so they could take action to plug those gaps.
Highlights of the campaign saw the London office being lit up in the colours of the SDGs and SDG icons, (including on flags, pin badges and visual media) being placed around the firm, generating conversations and galvanising action. The campaign engendered a feeling throughout the firm that they were moving forward as one.
We asked Sharon and Mike what advice they would offer to a firm considering using the SDGs to amplify and consolidate their ESG activity.
“Just start! It can feel so big and overwhelming. The best thing to do is just start.”
“I agree with Mike. Try and find which SDGs resonate with people in your firm and just start!”
The campaign has been such a success that Pinsent Masons are planning to keep it rolling, revisiting a new SDG each month, given the constantly changing nature of the ESG landscape and the appetite within the firm to evolve with it.
If you have a sustainability success story to share with us please email [email protected].
Congratulations to LSA executive firm member Charles Russell Speechlys who have successfully completed the last day of seven environmental audits and been recommended for certification for its ISO 14001 environmental management system by the British Standards Institute (BSI). The auditor noted that the environmental system had been well implemented and that operational controls over the firm’s emissions were well maintained.
ISO 14001 is an internationally recognised management system implemented to reduce an organisation’s environmental impact. It puts sustainability into the firm’s operations, giving its management team the tools to control and reduce carbon emissions. Eight out of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals directly link to ISO 14001, such as those related to clean energy; responsible consumption and climate action.
“The team were really engaged and it’s been a great project to lead on. Gaining ISO 14001 certification firmly puts best practice into the centre of CRS’s sustainability aims.”
Stanley Rayfield, who leads Achill Management’s work around ISO 14001
The certification demonstrates to a wider audience that the partnership has rigorous procedures in both managing its impact upon the environment and complying with environmental regulation, which is attractive to both potential clients and talent. CRS are building on previous successes, both with reducing carbon emissions from energy consumption and a previous win at the Corporation of London’s ‘Clean City’ awards scheme.
“The rigorous process of achieving ISO 14001 certification requires a whole firm approach, engagement from senior leadership is vital. For CRS to achieve its net zero target, sustainability needs to become cultural and that’s what this achievement will help us to deliver.”
Kerry Stares, Partner and Director of Responsible Business and Pro Bono, Charles Russell Speechlys
Charles Russell Speechlys have annual reduction objectives that include reducing both energy consumption and carbon emissions generally. BSI will independently monitor their success with surveillance audits at the three offices. We are confident that they will continue to build on this achievement and the LSA will be here to support them every step of the way.
“ISO14001 is not a tick box, compliance process – used properly it’s a powerful lever to create change for the better for the environment. For law firms, especially those who are members of the LSA, achieving the standard is a clear signal to clients, colleagues and other stakeholders that you are taking action on sustainability. We are delighted that many LSA members including Lester Aldridge, Linklaters, TLT, Womble Bond Dickinson, Taylor Wessing, Ward Hadaway, Burges Salmon and DLA Piper have been awarded ISO 14001.”
Amanda Carpenter, The LSA
If your firm is interested in ISO 14001 certification, please email [email protected]. If your firm is an LSA member and has achieved ISO 14001 certification is not listed above please contact us at [email protected].
Matthew Gingell, Oxygen House.
This whitepaper proposes an innovative approach to measure the Advised Emissions of law firms, specifically focusing on quantifying the carbon footprint associated with the advice they provide to clients. With the growing awareness of climate change and the urgent need to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, it is crucial to consider the environmental impact of various industries, including the legal sector. By developing a comprehensive framework for measuring Advised Emissions, law firms can better understand and minimise their carbon footprint while contributing to sustainable practices and creating co benefits for clients and the planet. This whitepaper presents a potential methodology for assessing Advised Emissions at a client level but also identifies the requirement for:
- The creation of a Transition Factor Database for every Client sector and sub-industry that the legal profession advises;
- An industry standard Matter Attribution Tool that accurately measures the lifetime carbon effect of legal advice at a matter (transaction) level; and
- A Global Advised Emissions Summit to advance understanding and collaboration on key principles and concepts.
Matt Sparkes, co-chair of the LSA and Sustainability Director at Linklaters, spent last week at Climate Week NYC. We asked him for his thoughts…
Let’s get the irony over before we begin. Yes, there is some absurdity in travelling thousands of miles to bump into those who work just across the street and, yes, hours in a plane is, well…
Truth is, if we were not here in person, we would not find the time to talk, to listen and to learn. We wouldn’t be exposed to new developments, to get a feel for others’ progress and to strike new connections that may or may not be the partnerships of tomorrow. I would not now know – or be reflecting upon – the challenges of turning a city (Bristol) green. I would still be underplaying the importance of governance in a Just Transition. I would still be believing that everyone else knows that much more.
It has been a vibrant, eclectic and chaotic week. The United Nations Global Compact Leaders’ Summit was a platform for launches and celebrations of topics ranging from a living wage to corruption and from human rights to, of course, climate change. It was vast in range and vast in scale (and perhaps too vast for workshops, if truth be told). By contrast, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ‘Goalkeepers’ event was tightly-packed, brightly-coloured and unrelentingly moving as it showcased again and again how the SDGs really must be addressed. Alongside these was a thoughtfully curated Climate Action event which, with an eye to #COP, presented a good case as to why the bandwagon should relocate in its entirety to Dubai in a few more weeks. And that is why these things are tricky. In a virtual world where attention is hard to maintain, even without the cover of ‘camera off’, there is no substitute for meeting face-to-face and being focused and engaged throughout. Those moments where you bump into colleagues and have time to chat and those sessions where you really can follow up with questions, discussion and dates in the diary.
Perhaps we shouldn’t need to go far, far away to achieve these things but that’s the way it is and I’ll be heading home energised by conversation, reacquainted with some bright and engaging people and ready to pick up the baton once again. Bouncing from one capital’s conference centre to another (as many still seem to do) does seem an odd way of making progress but, for those of us for whom this is rather more annual, it is an injection of insight, energy and, yes, hope and we all need more of that every so often, don’t we?
About Matt Sparkes
Matt is co-chair of the LSA and Sustainability Director at Linklaters. Matt leads Linklaters work on responsible business globally, ensuring that the firm’s own ESG performance reflects all stakeholder expectations and the advice provided to clients on many related themes. Matt is active in a range of sustainability networks including as EMEA Chair of Business for Societal Impact and as co-chair of the Legal Sustainability Alliance. He is also a Board Member and Trustee of the UNGC-UK Network, is vice-chair of the Living Wage Foundation and, in his spare time, was until recently proud to act as chair of an east London employability charity.