Press release from Net Zero Now, 23rd October 2023
- Net Zero Law Initiative attracts top law firms & calls on wider industry to sign up
- Competition announced for law firm employees to win chance to build sustainability skills with top training course
7 UK law firms have signed up to a new industry initiative that aims to accelerate the legal profession’s journey to Net Zero. The firms – including Mills & Reeves, Hill Dickinson & Cripps – have set ambitious targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent over the next five years to help fight the global climate crisis1.
The legal sector is estimated to be responsible for over 2% of greenhouse gas emissions from business sector 2, in the UK, at around 1.3 million tonnes of emissions every year. The UK Government has set a target for the whole economy to be Net Zero by 20503. The Net Zero Law Initiative, curated by Net Zero Now, the carbon accounting and climate action platform, in collaboration with the sector, is based on a Law sector-specific roadmap to Net Zero developed during 2023 with input from academics, climate experts and a pilot group of sector leaders as well as Greener Litigation and The Law Society.
It helps law firms measure and reduce their emissions using tailored reduction plans – enabling them to unlock multiple business benefits including reduced costs, increased client engagement and motivated staff. The Initiative is aligned with the latest global climate science, including the SBTi, and the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. Net Zero Now calculates that if all UK law firms signed up to the Initiative, the emissions of the legal profession could be reduced by as much as 400,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions over five years4.
The 7 law firms between them employ 3000 people and generate £320.5 million of revenue5 and include two firms in the top 50 and a further three in the top 100 UK law firms. All these firms worked with Net Zero Now to undertake a full calculation of their greenhouse gas emissions – the vital first step in enabling action to reduce them. Together, they are responsible for 17,500 tonnes of emissions – equivalent to the emissions from 2 million gallons of petrol6.
To deliver on their commitments of reducing their emissions by 30% over five years, many of the firms are already taking affirmative action, with common themes including with all exploring energy efficiency, purchasing renewable energy and changing employee commuting methods. Mills & Reeve are exploring on-site energy generation and researching virtual hearings while Cripps are exploring how to encourage their suppliers to consider their own environmental impact.
With large companies now mandated to report on emissions in their value chain7, it will become increasingly important for law firms to be able to account for and report their own emissions. The law firms participating in the Net Zero Law Initiative are able to report on their emissions using Net Zero Now’s platform, and evidence their own performance in reducing their emissions versus government benchmark figures.
As the economy continues its transition to Net Zero, sustainability skills are becoming increasingly in demand in all businesses8. To mark the successful growth of the Net Zero Law Initiative, Net Zero Now have today announced a competition for individuals within law firms who want to develop their sustainability knowledge to win a seat on a short course covering Sustainability Essentials for business. The course is run by one of the UK’s most prestigious sustainability institutions. To enter the competition, visit https://bit.ly/law_firms_competition.
David Rothera, Head of Business Development at Net Zero Now, said: “Law firms have a huge influence on the way we do business in the UK, advising senior leaders and influencing critical business decisions. By showing that they take the transition to a more planet-positive future seriously, these law firms are leading the way for the entire sector, and our wider economy, to take action. Net Zero Now exists to fight the climate crisis and boost business success – our experience across multiple sectors shows the two go hand in hand. Law firms that join this important Initiative can help attract and retain staff, reduce costs and meet the increasing demand for clients for law firms who are aligned with their own climate commitments.”
Jessica Wilkes-Ball, senior Sustainability Manager at Mills & Reeve said: “The Net Zero Law Initiative is a masterclass in collaboration! By being early adopters we were given the opportunity to suggest positive amendments which will support and enhance personalised emissions reporting and a tailored reductions plan, and provide a universal pathway for all law firms to start their net zero journey. Collaboration not competition is the only way in which we’ll achieve our collective goals of reaching net zero.”
Sebastian Charles, Director of Aardvark Planning Law said: “As a boutique law firm operating in the planning and environmental space, we wanted to underscore to our clients our understanding of net zero issues as well as making sure our business is as future proof as possible. Some of our instinctive decisions based on business efficiency have been borne out by the detailed data to have good outcomes in terms of our footprint. But that detailed data also provided insights into areas to focus on, for instance our IT spend. We can move forward knowing that we are very high performers in terms of emissions per pound of legal spend and that we have a differentiator to discuss with clients, and that they can benefit from that potential reduction versus industry benchmarks or our competitors.”
Jessica Jones, trainee solicitor, MSB said: “I love MSB and have loved having the opportunity to lead the firm towards more environmentally conscious and sustainable business practice. I’m really proud that through working with Net Zero Now, MSB will be one of the first firms in the UK to establish our carbon footprint to set a Net Zero target.”
Joanna Ford, Partner at Cripps, said: “The wide lens of environmental and social sustainability is integral to the future of the legal sector as we learn to adapt to our clients’ needs and upskill our profession to find legal solutions to these important issues. The Initiative has helped us understand our carbon emissions and the areas we can and need to focus on to enable further reduction. We are now working on embedding measurable and targeted actions to meet an ambitious yet achievable date to become a fully Net Zero business. We would encourage other businesses to get on board. It is easier for legal firms than you might think, and provides lots of food for thought and ideas to become more sustainable.”
Hill Dickinson COO Tas Quayum said: “Like all businesses committed to making our business more sustainable, we are all too aware that the journey is long and that understanding our own impact is a vital first step. By signing up to the Net Zero Law Initiative, we will share best practice and help make the legal sector publicly accountable for its actions and efforts in this regard. In the past 12 months, we have set up an ESG Board and dedicated working groups to lead the charge within Hill Dickinson. We have also published our Carbon Reduction Plan, outlining the initiatives we will deliver on and are already progressing.”
Amy Badoc, Paralegal at Cartridges Law, said: Net Zero Now: “We’re really excited for the next stage when we begin to implement actions identified in our Emissions Reduction Plan from Net Zero Now, and look forward to seeing the results in our future data.”
For more information, please visit www.netzeronow.org/law or visit the Net Zero Now team at LegalEx, at the Excel in London on 29 & 30 November, at stand number 562.
- For full details of each law firm’s climate commitments, please contact Net Zero Now.
- Net Zero Now calculations based on UK government emissions data / data and sector revenue
- Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Net Zero Now calculations based on a 30% reduction in the sector total of 1.3m tons CO2e
- Based on data provided by participating businesses
- Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator | US EPA
- SECR and TFCD reporting requirements
- Demand For Green Skills Outpacing What The Workforce Can Deliver—But There’s Hope (forbes.com); Green jobs are booming, but too few employees have sustainability skills to fill them – here are 4 ways to close the gap (theconversation.com)