A number of law firms have signed up to a new initiative encouraging the graduate recruitment industry to reduce its carbon footprint.

The Sustainable Recruitment Alliance is the brainchild of magic circle firm Clifford Chance and communications agency Blackbridge.

Six other law firms have so far signed up: Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Pinsent Masons, RPC, TLT and Weil Gotshal & Manges. Other non-law organisations on board included Babcock International Group, Co-op, DAZN, Enterprise, myGwork, National Student Pride, Police Now and Unlocked Graduates.

The Sustainable Recruitment Alliance will provide tips and resources to help participating organisations change their behaviour to reduce waste when they are recruiting graduates.

Reed SMith, Osborne clarke

It will encourage a reduction in travel to recruitment events and well as a cut in the use of physical branding materials and merchandise. It will also encourage organisations to report annually on their progress.

“The idea behind it to come together as an industry, gain momentum and get enough employers of graduates to say we need to do things differently as a collective, Laura Yeates, head of graduate talent at Clifford Chance and the chair of the Sustainable Recruitment Alliance, told The Lawyer. “By signing up to this students will, and should, challenge us when it comes to our green credentials.” 

Branded freebies have been a staple of the milkround season for decades and range from standard offerings like sweets, pens and mugs to more outlandish items such as Cooley’s flashing balls and Burges Salmon’s unrealistic salmon.

“This isn’t about removing freebies in their entirety, it’s about reducing and replacing them,” Yeates said. Clifford Chance has cut its number of products to two, both sourced from ethically verified suppliers. “They are products we are proud to have in our merchandise suite, and we have ordered small amounts. For us this is really about investing in other meaningful development opportunities, like our virtual internship program. If you ask students which is more valuable, a free water bottle or having that modular programme they can put on their CV, it has to be a better investment.”

A report for Clifford Chance by sustainability reporting organisation Greenstone found that by scrapping its recruitment brochures the firm saved a total of 5.7 tonnes of paper and avoided an additional 8.5 tonnes of CO2 emissions being emitted. This is the equivalent to planting 141 trees or more than a million mobile charges. Through additional changes such as meat-free catering and virtual engagement platforms, Clifford Chance achieved a further reduction in emissions of 9 per cent from 2013/14 to 2019/20, amounting to 6 tonnes of CO2.

“I am excited how this can progress into the student space,” Yeates concluded. “We have partnered with Students Organising for Sustainability [an offshoot of the NUS], and are looking at how to bring this into the higher education institutions themselves.”