ADDLESHAW Goddard and Freshfields Bruckahus Deringer have emerged as the firms with the lowest carbon emission counts, at 5.8 tonnes per lawyer and 8.7 tonnes per lawyer respectively, when compared with other top 20 firms.
The two firms’ CO2 counts are way below the bulk of the top 20 firms’, with Linklaters registering 16.6 tonnes of emission per lawyer for its UK operations alone and CMS Cameron McKenna inflicting 14.07 tonnes of CO2 per lawyer for the UK and Central and Eastern Europe areas. SJ Berwin finished top of the chart with an astonishing 19.2 tonnes per lawyer, but it claims to offset the lot.
“We started looking into our impact on climate change 18 months ago – slightly before other firms started looking into it,” explained Freshfields head of environmental working John Blaine.
Addleshaws corporate social responsibility (CSR) manager Marcus Jamieson-Pond said his firm has a lower CO2 count due to its relatively low degree of international travel. Addleshaws has also tightened its office management policies, such as the new air-conditioning system, which saves the firm 410 tonnes of emissions per year.
The majority of firms say that the focus on becoming environmentally friendly is a result of firms’ desire to become more efficient alongside increasing levels awareness among clients.
“Ultimately the main motivation is because our clients want to know that we’re taking this seriously, which we are; but other motivations include responding to employee concerns and cost control,” said Herbert Smith CSR manager Richard Brophy. Herbert Smith’s emission count came in at 7,988 tonnes for the year 2005-06.
Transport for London head of legal Gareth John said CSR is definitely something he is interested in. “We currently ask firms what programmes are in place and press them on what they’re doing to better the environment,” said John, who appointed Herbert Smith to advise on the Docklands Light Railway project.
“While we don’t ask firms for a figure, I can see us doing that in the future,” he added.
Other large City firms, such as Linklaters and Freshfields, said their environmental efforts are driven internally rather than pushed by clients.
“While clients do ask what we’re doing, we want to change our working practices to be more efficient,” said Blaine.
Other firms that have noticed an increase in client awareness on CSR include Taylor Wessing, which purchases carbon credits from offsetting programme Pure.
In-house counsel are divided on the subject, with some stating that CSR efforts are a key factor in panel decisions and others saying that it is challenging enough to find a firm that fits culturally with the company and that issues such as CSR do not come into play.
One head of legal at a music company said CSR is not something high up on the list of priorities when selecting a panel firm, as it does not affect the company directly. Another chief legal counsel told The Lawyer that the push for environmental awareness in firms should stem from in-house counsel in banks, as they have more leverage over firms due to their sizeable legal spends.
But is seems law firms are taking the responsibility over gauging their carbon footprints, despite the process being voluntary. A spokesperson from climate consultant the Carbon Neutral Company said law firms have “stood up pretty well when compared with other industries”.
“It’s important to recognise that it’s been voluntary to be audited this way as law firms are a service industry,” said the representative.
The company has audited and worked with a number of law firms and chambers, including Dechert, Field Fisher Waterhouse, Mishcon de Reya Simmons & Simmons, SJ Berwin and Keating Chambers, which was the first barristers’ set to go carbonneutral(see box).
Some CSR managers believe that measurements are meaningless due to the lack of standardisation, but a standardised calculation process is expected to be announced relatively soon.
The Carbon Neutral Company spokesperson added that a representative from Carbon Trust, another carbon emission auditing company, has said the Government will seek to put in place some regulation of office design.
•KEATING SETS GREEN STANDARDS
Keating Chambers has become the first barristers’ set to announce that it is to go carbon-neutral.
The technology and construction set has teamed up with climate consultant the Carbon Netural Company to identify the chambers’ carbon footprint and the volume of carbon dioxide it generates.
Keating has committed itself to reducing its footprint and offsetting the ‘unavoidable’. In the past 12 months it has been reviewing the ‘green credentials’ of its suppliers and has been seeking alternatives from renewable energy sources.
Head of chambers John Marrin QC called for other chambers to follow Keating’s example. “Climate change cannot be ignored and we should all be seeking to play our part in addressing it,” he said.
The news comes as City firms commit themselves to reducing their carbon footprints.
Linklaters, for example, is pushing its employees to become carbon-neutral, while Norton Rose has challenged its staff to shrink their own carbon footprints by 10 per cent.