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14 May 2013
On 1 May Business in the Community hosted a countrywide summit on climate change. The summit, led by HRH the Prince of Wales, brought together more than 1,000 senior CEOs and business leaders to discuss climate change and the business response to this global issue.
The summit was also evidence of the growing trend towards mobilising the business commitment to tackling climate change. There is no doubt that this issue should concern us all, not just the environmental enthusiasts and scientists. Every day a new story about the effects of climate change or the steps that big businesses are taking to lower their carbon footprints hits the headlines.
Few of us could claim to be experts, but most are familiar with evidence of the increase in global temperatures and the impact that this is having on sea levels, ecosystems, agriculture, our health and water availability.
Climate change is the biggest global challenge that we face today. Earlier this year Al Gore was invited to speak at DLA Piper's climate change conference in Sheffield. His address was powerful and he was resolute in his conclusion that the benefits of taking action now far outweigh the reasons cited for doing nothing.
The growing political and business commitment to reducing carbon emissions is encouraging, but more can be achieved.
So what is the business response to this issue and what should law firms be doing? The benefits of introducing an environmental strategy into the very fabric of all core business operations are obvious. Cost saving, increased operational efficiencies and, yes, a robust environmental strategy will also help to enhance the reputation of businesses.
Law firms, the environmental impact of which are significantly less than those within the manufacturing or service industries, also have to consider what their carbon emission strategies should be.
On a macro level, law firms employ many hundreds and thousands of paper-generating staff who often travel between offices, which in themselves may be hothouses for unsustainable business practices. Positive steps are already being taken within the sector and should be reviewed with much more encouragement, as this activity stimulates a change in behaviour in others. Our role as influencers is an important one, as by taking up the challenge we engage our clients, staff, suppliers and other stakeholders.
Developing a carbon emissions reduction strategy is very much a journey of discovery and reflection. As you address the risks you also begin to realise the opportunities. As our collective steps gather pace, the impact and leadership that we show as a sector will become more pronounced.
It is no surprise that the business leaders' May Day summit took place at a time when the demand for information on best practice, effective strategies and carbon offsetting is at an all-time high. It is encouraging that this and similar events have a very practical, knowledge-sharing element to them.
The CEOs and other business leaders who attended the May Day summit were asked to question their commitment to tackling climate change issues, whatever stage of the environmental journey they are at.
The key premise is that we can probably all do a bit more. The business community and law firms, large and small, have a huge role to play in supporting the UK's move to a low-carbon economy. Sustainability has entered a new era.