Leilani Weier reflects on sustainability and the 10th Anniversary of the LSA and what it means for Linklaters
In our second Focus on a Firm feature we hear a perspective from Linklaters through an interview with Leilani Weier, Global Senior Manager for Environment, Sustainability, and H&S at the firm. Linklaters is one of the founding member firms of the LSA and Leilani has been actively involved with the LSA since its early beginnings.
What are the greatest changes you have seen over the last 10 years
“One of the key changes has been a shift away from a focus largely on measurement to one which takes a more holistic approach to sustainability. The concept of the Circular Economy has influenced this and that’s likely to increase.
There’s been a shift in the role of the environmental professional over the last decade, with greater efforts now applied to all environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. Within the firm we’ve gone from part-time person covering environmental sustainability to a highly effective small team.
Over the years, 80% of my role has changed and I now have the opportunity to work on a project looking at ESG risks and working at the intersection of sustainability and legal due diligence. That’s not something which necessarily fits the skillset of every sustainability professional, but my own recent MBA qualification and the firm’s support and willingness to be innovative has enabled this for me. Maybe something which would not have been possible 10 years ago.
Another big change we’ve seen over the past 10 years is the increase in questions from clients about our approach to sustainability.”
What has been the greatest challenge Linklaters has faced over the last decade?
“Change management and bringing our colleagues with us through some of our notable sustainability programme changes. As with the take up of any type of change, there will always be a small number of innovators, a few more early adopters, a middle majority and then the “laggards”. It seems such a small thing, but years ago when our facilities team removed desk bins it was a significant change for people to get used to. Years on it can still be a big challenge to get everyone in the firm, at whatever level, to recognise what a massive impact we could have if everyone did some of these simple things to improve our sustainability”.
What do you feel your greatest success has been?
“Over the past 10 years we’ve been able to reduce our electricity consumption by 43%. Having implemented the easier projects to reduce our energy use we are now focusing on the detailed technical and engineering solutions to go even further. It’s encouraging that we have our CFOO and Facilities teams all talking and working together to find more sustainable ways to run our offices. We are also excited about the decision to install an electric vehicle charging point in our loading bay.
Even though it is always a challenge to change behaviour, the impact of the changes needs to be carefully thought out. For example, one of these has been the strong take up by colleagues of an initiative to reduce plastic by charging 20p for the take-away boxes provided in the staff restaurant. We are also really pleased that we’ve been able to persuade colleagues to remove plastic cutlery from the staff restaurant. It proves that “if you make it easy, people will do it”.
What is there still to do for Linklaters or the rest of the sector?
“Although we’ve achieved carbon neutrality for all our Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, reducing the number of flights continue to be a challenge. This is true right across the sector, particularly for international firms. Tackling food waste from staff restaurant and meeting catering is also another issue we continue to address, working alongside our catering team. Like many other firms, we need to think about the longer-term strategy for our buildings – what will our needs be in 5-10 years and how can our buildings and associated facilities meet those needs in the most sustainable way possible? Keeping abreast of the latest standards and thinking around retrofit and improvements is really important. On top of all this is the challenge of engaging, supporting and training up the global team of great people (for example, we have about 150 employee champions across the firm) who lead on all aspects of sustainability across our 30 locations spread over 20 countries. The sustainability agenda is developing rapidly and we need to ensure people have the skills needed and are kept refreshed and enthused.”
What practical advice would you give to those starting out?
“Make it as simple as possible to “do the right thing”! Everyone is busy and time is a precious and finite resource. Fee earners in the firm are particularly focused on spending their time to meet client’s direct needs. Make sure the sustainable thing you encourage colleagues to do is as easy if not easier than the less sustainable option! If it isn’t the easier option, always report back the success, and thank people for their efforts and contributions.
I’d also say that collaborating and working alongside people wins the day – always acknowledge that achieving any success with sustainability improvements is always a team effort and never just down to one individual.
Finally – go with the flow on the issues people are currently most interested in (for example, the impact of plastics on the world’s oceans). Ride the topic and be flexible!”
What is the benefit of LSA membership to Linklaters and others?
“The LSA provides a great way to exchange knowledge and learn from likeminded individuals and law firms facing the same or similar challenges around sustainability. The various LSA forums provide a good way to share thoughts and work through issues together. There’s a real sense of camaraderie amongst contacts in other firms. The LSA also provides a great way to benchmark our approach and progress with other law firms – Are we better or worse? What more could we be doing? Who can we learn from?
It also enables really useful interaction between the practitioners and partners/senior leaders within our firms as well as useful contacts with helpful individuals and organisations which we might not otherwise have come across. Finally, having enthusiastic and impartial “hosts” of the LSA to help drive things along is also really beneficial to all members!”