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Environment and sustainability

Environmental performance is critical to the successful operation of our firm and so we continue to take important steps to try to reduce our environmental impact as well as engaging with our clients and our people on the subject.

As a major UK law firm with international offices, we recognise the importance of leading the way in adopting best environmental practice, taking responsibility for our actions and striving to achieve challenging reductions in emissions and waste. In the process we wish to inform and be informed by our clients and exceed their expectations.

Our commitment to environmental protection

We are members of the Legal Sustainability Alliance, an inclusive movement of law firms and related organisations committed to take action to improve the environmental sustainability of our operations.

The climate crisis has laid bare the urgency to become an environmentally sustainable business. To that end, in our 2021 strategic review, we committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Our net zero target differs from pledging ‘carbon neutrality’ – which can be achieved solely by buying carbon credits – because it requires us to reduce our carbon emissions as much as possible and offset residual, irreducible emissions using offset schemes that permanently sequester carbon.

In 2019, our carbon emissions totalled 2157 tCO2e or 2.37 tCO2e per employee. In 2021 we had reduced our emissions by 16% at 1806 tCO2e or 2.00 tCO2e per employee, with 33% attributable to electricity consumption, flights at 27% and 25% attributable to employees working from home.

Our next steps are to:

  • Refine our net zero transition plan and interim targets
  • Pilot a scheme for departmental carbon budgets consisting of fixed carbon (e.g., heating and lighting) and variable carbon (e.g., those associated with flights and other travel)
  • Launch a programme of internal communications and staff engagement to raise awareness, generate buy-in and seek ideas and feedback, laying a strong foundation for a Firm-wide rollout of departmental carbon budgets
  • Identify suitable carbon offset projects and implement a scheme to offset a full year’s carbon emissions during the course of our current 2022-23 financial year

Environmental Sustainability Task Force

We have a high level of employee engagement through our environmental sustainability task force (eFORCE) which is helping the firm to follow the well-recognised concept of “3R” – reduce; reuse; recycle.

Some of our activities to demonstrate this are set out below.

Reduce

  • A firm-wide introduction of electronic files and roll out of new tablet-based technology significantly reducing the need for hard copies of documents
  • A low-tech step of changing to a lower GSM weight of paper has also reduced our consumption of paper. As part of a firmwide project called “Paper Cut” we are continuously monitoring our print numbers and looking at ways to continue to further reduce consumption
  • With only limited exceptions all of our paper is Forest Stewardship certified
  • The majority of our UK office space are fitted with motion sensor lighting
  • As part of our recent office fitouts, we have ensured that we have installed LED lighting and we are implementing a programme of installing LED where practically possible in all our UK offices
  • Floor temperature settings are reset on a weekly basis to maximise energy efficiency.
  • We have minimised our reliance on chemical cleaning products by primarily using electrically altered water for cleaning.

Reuse

We have:

  • Removed all single-use plastic cutlery in the London office cafeteria and plasticised paper cups at tea points
  • Supplied all employees with individual water bottles and thermal keep cups
  • Removed most single-use consumables from all tea points (plastic/paper cups/stirrers)
  • As part of a "War on Waste" campaign, removed all desk bins from our UK offices and require all recyclable waste to be disposed of in recycling bins
  • Introduced a routine of refilling and reusing soap containers and sponges. These products also have significant environmental and/or ethical benefits.

Recycle

  • We recycle all our client area coffee grounds into advanced biofuels and biochemicals
  • Food waste bins have been introduced on all floors in our UK offices
  • We also recycle our coffee pods, contact lenses, batteries and other items where possible
  • All in-house generated products in the London office cafeteria are served in compostable Vegware containers that can be disposed of in the food waste stream
  • Our recent office fitouts have included a strict recycling policy for unused & waste materials
  • Compostable latex-free gloves are used for cleaning and catering.
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