Spotlight on using Pro Bono to respond to the climate crisis

According to the UN, humanity is now on a “code red” when it comes to climate change. This was the warning from the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference that concluded climate change is now widespread, rapid and intensifying, with some trends already irreversible.

Given this consensus, it is incumbent on all law firms and lawyers to consider a climate-conscious approach to legal practice, including thinking about how to identify climate change risks, liabilities and potential greener courses of action. We first provided pro bono support to The Chancery Lane Project (TCLP) at its launch in 2019. In short, this is an industry initiative which helps lawyers to integrate climate change considerations into contracts. TCLP uses the power of pro bono to help drive sustainable behaviour in business and our communities.

TCLP is a collaborative initiative of lawyers and business leaders to develop template contract clauses that establish carbon reduction commitments in supply chains and in different sectors including property, construction, banking and finance, employment and corporate affairs. With 2030 just seven years away, TCLP’s mission is to use the power of contracts to deliver rapid decarbonisation at scale. By embedding clauses focused on carbon reduction into these contracts, the project aims to bring ever-growing climate concerns into the commercial sphere. As businesses contract with suppliers using these clauses, and those suppliers in turn contract with others, the focus on climate change multiplies across an ever-widening group.

We have committed to a 2030 net zero target and, having attended TCLP’s first Hackathon in November 2019, are an enthusiastic advocate and supporter of TCLP and its climate clauses. Alongside assisting with some initial drafting for their Climate Contract Playbook, which contains a collection of climate-conscious contract provisions and model laws, we have included adaptations of these clauses in some existing and long-term agreements with the Firm’s own suppliers. TCLP’s clauses have become a valuable resource at Charles Russell Speechlys and having facilitated internal presentations on TCLP’s clauses and how to use them, the TCLP resources are available for lawyers to use through the Firm’s drafting toolkits. They provide credible and reliable precedents for use in real-world contracts, allow for flexibility and can be adapted to what is best for our Firm and our clients’ climate ambitions and net zero commitments.

David Berry, Partner and General Counsel, is one of the leading lawyers in our work and has written a piece for TCLP on our partnership. “When negotiating supplier contracts, understanding their awareness and tailoring to their abilities to perform is essential whilst still setting challenging targets depending upon where the supplier is on the pathway to helping combat climate change,” he says. “Use of the TCLP toolkit is an excellent place for firms to either commence or continue their TCLP journeys, which, through increasing firm-wide awareness, open up new opportunities to use clauses in client work.”

Becky Annison, Director of Comms and Engagement at TCLP says “When you are seriously implementing carbon targets, you have to look at rewiring your agreements. This embeds climate solutions directly into commercial decision-making – because contracts are legally enforceable. That means there are consequences for failure. Our best-in-class climate clauses turn climate pledges into hard targets in the same way that contract terms do with pricing, delivery times and service specifications. You wouldn’t leave profit margins to chance and a handshake. It’s time we applied the same to carbon emissions.”

Learn more about the work of TCLP by signing up to their newsletter and if you are interested in hearing more about our Pro Bono Practice, please contact Sarah Farrelly.

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