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There’s no doubt that across the globe fears are rising over environmental issues. The latest environmental protests saw 16-year-old, Greta Thunberg urge students across the globe to abandon their classrooms in a bid to grab the attention of world leaders and make them acknowledge the burning need to cut climate change. undoubtedly a political issue, businesses and individuals also have a role to play in attaining global change and in ensuring a positive impact is made on their community and environment. The Law Gazette reported that 2018 saw a record number of law firm report on their carbon footprint and with Sustainable strategy becoming a key battle ground for business growing (62% of executives consider a sustainability strategy necessary to be competitive today).. How can law firms make the change and go green?
Going green isn’t just about being eco-friendly, but it can also be a massive factor in cutting costs. The American Bar Association released the Law Office Guide to Energy Efficiency which revealed ‘energy represents 30% of a typical office building’s operating costs, and is the single largest controllable operating expense’.
We’ve outlined ten tips to help you become more eco-friendly and outline your own environmental social governance…
1.Get tech savy—Don’t fall into the trap of being a stereotypical law firm which is piled high with papers. We live in a digital world, which means there’s a great opportunity to go paperless by creating a digital bank of things such as contracts, documents, and anything that you don’t legally need to have printed out. To help you on the journey to a paperless future, LexisNexis has produced a guide to help you consider a paperless office policy
2.Recycle—This doesn’t only go for recycling old documents in a confidential waste bin, but also for your general waste. LexisNexis offers a general recycling bin and one for food waste to ensure that our contribution to landfill can be reduced.
3.Reduce single use plastics—Single use plastics can take more than 1,000 years to bio-degrade and if melted release toxic fumes into the atmosphere. By introducing a ban on these water bottles, or an incentive for bringing in a chemical-free reusable bottle/coffee cup is an easy way to reduce single use plastics in the workplace. Another alternative is to offer ‘workplace kitchenware’ in any kitchen area, where people can use communal glasses, mugs, cutlery and plates
4.Encourage emailing—It can be hard to get out of the comfort of writing physical letters when it comes to legal matters. However, with things like encryption coding, emailing is a safe and paperless way to send out communications
5.Assess your materials—Have a look at your materials such as stationary, filing materials, equipment, furniture and electronics, see if anything can be swapped out for sustainable sources, recycled materials or even something that is itself recyclable
6. Sustainable Travel—Transport for London has released a guide for sustainable business travel, some of the main takeaways include: making an alternative to travel by replacing face-to-face contact with video or teleconferencing; travel blending by reducing the frequency of business travel by combining meetings into one trip and managing time better; encouraging staff to take efficient travel modes, for example LexisNexis offers a ride to work scheme to encourage cycling. Flight providers such as BA are now offering 0% Carbon Footprint flights
7.Measuring your ‘carbon footprint’—As suggested by the Legal Sustainability Alliance (LSA), the Greenstone calculator provides a user-friendly tool to calculator your footprint and monitor your progress over time. This is intended to improve ‘transparency, consistency and comparability of carbon emissions’
8.Engaging employees—Employees are already putting pressure on their employers about environmental policies, with the Carbon Trust finding that ‘more than three-quarters of UK employees now consider it important to work for an organisation that has an active policy to reduce its carbon emissions’. Despite this it is still a good idea to run things such as awareness campaigns and identify ‘green champions’, in doing so you are not only mobilising the benefits of employees on climate change, but you can also reduce costs, increase staff morale and improve recruitment and retention. The LSA has an employee engagement tool which can help you implement the above
9.Creating a green policy—In the LexisNexis article Why law firms should go green, Linda Horbye, head of corporate responsibility at CMS outlines that having a green policy can produce ‘cost savings, such as lower energy bills and zero waste’. Introducing simple things such as energy-efficient light bulbs, and ensuring all electronics and lights are turned off when not in use can easily cut costs and energy usage. Creating a framework for new initiatives such as reducing waste, saving energy and lowering distribution costs can be a guide for all employees
10. Rethink and renovate—This step may be a little pricier but could save you a lot in the future. If refurbishing your firm’s office, you should be looking at things such as: windows that allow natural light and are reinforced to prevent energy leaks; a recycling water system with energy efficient features; insulation and flooring; using eco-friendly masteries for furniture and décor
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Hannah is one of the Future of Law blog’s digital and technical editors. She graduated from Northumbria University with a degree in History and Politics and previously freelanced for News UK, before working as a senior news editor for LexisNexis.
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