SustainabilityProtecting tomorrow for everyone
In today’s world, ESG issues are of critical importance to business. We’re helping our clients transition to, and thrive in, a more sustainable future. We ask tough questions about purpose and transparency and find the answers together.
We’re also looking for opportunities to integrate sustainability into our governance, decision-making and operations. We ensure our people have the right resources and support they need to perform and deliver at their best for our clients.
How we’re transforming our business
Reaching net zero by 2040
The climate crisis is already having a severe impact around the world. We must take decisive action now. Professional services is not a carbon intensive sector. We know the vast majority of our carbon footprint – 95% – is in our supply chain, including procurement and business travel. But we must do our part to decarbonise our business and value chain, and help our clients do the same. The net zero transition is our number one material issue.
Collaboration plays a crucial role in climate action. We're a founding member of the Legal Sustainability Alliance and the Net Zero Lawyers Alliance. JP Douglas-Henry, our Managing Director for Sustainability and Resilience, sits on NZLA's steering committee. NZLA is committed to climate action, promoting sustainability reporting and sharing best practice in the legal sector. We're also a founding member of Global Alliance of Impact Lawyers, a community of legal leaders using the practice of law to have a positive impact on people and the planet, and to accelerate the just transition.
We have a near-term target to halve our carbon footprint in all three scopes by 2030 against a 2019 baseline. We also have a net zero target to reduce all three scopes by 90% by 2040 from a 2019 baseline, and to neutralise the remaining residual emissions at the net zero target year, 2040, through carbon removal. Both of these targets follow the methodology of the Science-Based Targets initiative.
Decarbonising our business
To decarbonise our business, we’re focused on transforming it in five areas:
- implementing our Thoughtful Travel campaign to reduce emissions by 75% by 2030
- working with suppliers to reduce emissions on our supply chain by 25% by 2030
- switching to renewable electricity across Europe by 2025, and all offices by 2030
- optimising energy use in our offices
- designing future workspaces with sustainability and health in mind
Our biggest potential contribution to global decarbonisation efforts is by helping clients on their own net zero journeys. We’re ensuring our approach to client work is aligned with our climate ambition, including how we map and measure advised emissions as we develop our climate transition plan.
Our environmental actions are aligned with locally and internationally recognised standards and initiatives, including:
- certification to ISO 14001, ISO 50001 and the Carbon Trust
- the UN Global Compact
- The Legal Renewables Initiative in the UK
- Business Ambition for 1.5°C.
In July 2021 we submitted a new assessment – and opted for the public disclosure route – to the CDP and achieved a B in December 2021.
Building an inclusive culture
We’re all different, and those differences are our greatest strength. Everyone should feel valued for who they are. We take meaningful action to create an inclusive culture in our business, and make a positive difference to our communities. We’ve made progress, but there’s a lot more to do. The legal sector still isn’t diverse enough.
Firms that fail to take action to improve diversity aren’t just reinforcing social inequalities in the legal profession and wider society. They’re also putting at risk their innovation and competitiveness. Our materiality assessment ranked diversity, mobility and inclusion as our second-highest-rated issue.
Enabling a just, stable and sustainable society
We have an impact on society in many ways. The advice we give to commercial and pro bono clients. How we manage our supply chain. Our community partnerships. Our leadership and advocacy on key social issues.
We use our resources to reduce inequality and enhance the practice and rule of law. Taking meaningful action to address social challenges is also important to our clients, who expect us to live up to high standards of social responsibility. And it’s part of what makes people proud to work for us, helping us attract and retain talent.
In 2020, we were the first law firm to sign the Social Mobility Pledge, and published Levelling Up Law, the legal sector's first social mobility impact report. Our latest social mobility report was published in November 2022.
Our aim is to have a net positive social effect and support local economies and communities where we operate. An ongoing research project to examine our socioeconomic impact in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya will help us understand how we deliver social value.
We run two flagship programmes to improve access to education and opportunity – Head Start and Global Scholarships – and encourage our people to do community engagement.
Run in the UK, Kenya, China, New Zealand and Australia, Head Start supports talented young people who face social, economic or cultural barriers to entering and succeeding in law. Head Start students are recruited using evidence-based social equality criteria. Through internships, skills training and mentoring, students build confidence, create networks and gain knowledge. Head Start can last from 18 months to five years, depending on the location.
Launched in 2017, our Global Scholarships Program nurtures future lawyers and builds legal capacity in developing countries. Delivered with the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law and the Saïd Business School, the programme contributes to embedding the rule of law in underserved regions.
Each year, the firm supports students of the programme in Africa, South and West Asia, the South Pacific and Latin America. Over their bespoke two-year scholarship, students have their full tuition paid and receive mentoring and training to develop their skills, confidence and networks.
Giving our people opportunities to volunteer to support social causes is a key part of our learning and development strategy. All our partners and staff are encouraged to take two days off work each year to engage in community activities. Those who would like to contribute more time can do so, by agreement.
We also match up to GBP200 (or local currency equivalent) per year of partner and staff donations to eligible charities and causes. Many of our offices run a local committee that nominates a charity of the year, voted for by our people. In 2022, we rolled out an internal community engagement platform to match our people with volunteering and fundraising opportunities. And we regularly contribute to emergency relief efforts, both through legal assistance and through fundraising.
Integrating ESG into how we govern our business
ESG issues present major risks and opportunities to companies, and leading global corporations recognise that profit and purpose are interdependent. For businesses to be successful in the long term, they must also deliver social value. There’s a growing expectation for all businesses – including law firms – to make a positive contribution to society and the environment, and to report on their impact.
As a professional services organisation, our business is focused on delivering for our clients. Our client work is also where we have the biggest opportunity to drive positive social and environmental change. As with other sectors, advisors to business are under increasing pressure to account for the difference their advice makes in terms of sustainability. So integrating ESG risk governance into our client offering is strategically important to our firm.
We’re committed to fully integrating ESG considerations into our mainstream business risk management processes, with a special focus on our approach to client work. Like many organisations, we’re exploring how our governance structures can best achieve this – and where we need to make changes.
Reporting on sustainability
A key part of our sustainability approach is being honest and transparent with our stakeholders about our sustainability plans, progress and challenges.
We publish an annual Sustainability Report, which is a comprehensive account of our sustainability plans, progress and challenges. We publish topical reports to dive more deeply into an issue we care deeply about. We also report to a number of third-party assessors and standards, including CDP Climate Change, EcoVadis and UN Global Compact Enhanced Communication on Progress.