In recent years the call for action against climate change has massively increased. A scale-up in the publicization of climate change has occurred, with figures such as Greta Thunberg spreading the message highlighting the urgency of the situation and the actions of protesters and groups such as Extinction Rebellion. Subsequently, there is an increasing expectation for businesses to act to improve the current climate situation whilst reducing their own contributions to the climate crisis. Unsurprisingly, the legal industry is not exempt from this and we can consider both the industry’s carbon emissions and initiatives that it is involved with.
An indicator as to the impact that we are having on the environment is our Carbon Footprint and this is also applicable to firms. Professor Selin defines ‘Carbon Footprint’ as ‘amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with all the activities of a person or other entities…the carbon footprint concept also often includes the emissions of other greenhouse gases’.
Naturally, carbon emissions constitute a large share of Carbon Footprint and it is becoming increasingly common for firms to announce and set targets in order to reduce their carbon emissions by a particular deadline. In May this year, Slaughter and May’s climate change targets gained approval from the Science Based Targets Initiative, becoming the first firm to do so. These types of targets give tangible goals which firms can work towards and may help in guiding policy as to how a firm operates. Many firms regularly state the actions which they have taken and are currently carrying out concerning tackling climate change. Notably, the Legal Sustainability Alliance (LSA), comprising of many law firms, is a group collaboratively working to reduce the effects of climate change. The LSA publishes an annual report and the report published in 2018 provided detail on the carbon footprint of its members.
It has been recognised that the decrease in activity this year has resulted in positive effects on the environment and it has also been established that the lockdown has in ways shown the potential for remote working as a more efficient practice. Therefore, whether the legal industry sees an increase in those working from home may be significant for both climate change and productivity.
There has been a greater scrutiny of the actions of all industries with regards to the climate situation. Recent events, such as the popular and widely-attended protests led by Extinction Rebellion, have extended this to the legal industry. Lawyers for Extinction Rebellion, a sub-category of the wider group, focuses on the influence which the law has on climate change and the role which the legal industry plays. It appears that there is an awareness in the legal industry of the importance of its activities and firms and lawyers respectively are being seen to take action in supporting and becoming involved with initiatives and projects like LSA and the Chancery Lane Project.
The Chancery Lane Project is supported by various firms and businesses and the group of lawyers work together to help in tackling climate change, recognising the authority which the law has in being able to do so. Ultimately, there seem to be efforts being made by the legal industry and these include the targets being set by firms collectively in such projects and individually which recognise its responsibility in the situation.
~ Trinity Batt, The Student Lawyer