Law firms across the UK are responding to worldwide concern about the effects of climate change. Meaningful action, innovation and collaboration is expected from the business community, and law firms must play their part.
The Legal Sector Alliance (LSA) was formed in October 2007 as a sector-driven movement to address climate change issues. The alliance will help feed the appetite among law firms to draw on the experiences of others within the sector and identify useful examples of best practice. If the LSA only achieved this much it would be a very positive sector initiative, but it is much more ambitious.
DLA Piper is one of the founding members of the LSA, together with 17 other law firms large and small, the Environmental Law Foundation and the Law Society. The secretariat is provided by Business in the Community. Its goal is to provide support and solutions. Each founding member has committed the time of their senior executives and operational experts and financial support to help realise the LSA’s vision.
When the founding members came together they knew there was a need for the sector to take ownership of the way it responds to climate change. Right from the start it was clear that the sector would benefit from more guidelines on how to develop a green strategy, measuring impact, calculating carbon footprints, monitoring performance and allocating resources to ensure that policies are fully supported and achievable.
Helping law firms address climate change in a way that makes sense to them is central to the work of the LSA. A set of climate change principles will be launched for the sector. These will be underpinned by a series of tools and guidelines being developed as a result of extensive consultation and will help the entire legal profession take meaningful action. This is not a resource for large and medium-sized firms only – the LSA’s work will be relevant to all firms, whatever their size or specialism.
The principles will be launched to the profession officially in November. The LSA will ask all firms to sign up and make a commitment to taking action on climate change. Why sign up? Well, taking action on climate change is just good business sense. It is expected by clients, employees and potential recruits, and it is difficult to argue with the financial benefits of creating a more efficient business.
The principles will help firms across the sector introduce or enhance their environmental strategies. They will be underpinned by supporting materials, best practice, case studies and tools to make it easier for firms to implement effective change.
There is more to going green than switching to renewable energy and recycling paper. The thornier challenges of measuring emissions, sustainable procurement, reporting and engaging with in-house counsel on sustainability will also be addressed by the LSA.
For example, how do you go about measuring your carbon footprint? There are no universal guidelines. In a recent website survey by the LSA, most firms had not measured their footprint as they simply didn’t know where to start. This is valuable feedback, and a working group within the LSA is already developing a carbon footprint protocol for the sector.
The next few months will be critical as the LSA undertakes further consultation across the sector to test the principles being developed ahead of the big launch to the entire profession. This will be the real beginning for the LSA, and I hope there will be widespread take-up of its principles across the UK. By acting in unison the LSA we will enhance the impact of sustainability efforts within our own firms and have greater influence within the wider business community.