The risks for law firms when they don’t take their own climate-conscious advice

What can law firms do to improve their environmental, social and corporate governance profile? Farhan Farani of Farani Taylor Solicitors offers some tips.

Farhan Farani, founding partner|Farani Taylor solicitors|

Last month, new research by RSGI – a legal profession think tank – revealed that law firms weren’t necessarily following the advice they were giving to clients about environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) factors.

The report found that out of the largest 100 law firms, 70 were advising clients on ESG, but out of that only 19 had set targets to reduce carbon emissions, with seven setting a date to reach net zero.

We are now in a period of history where energy companies are being sued for not adhering to carbon emissions targets. Indeed, the environmental law charity ClientEarth announced it would be taking legal action against the directors of the oil & gas giant Shell for inadequately preparing to meet net zero. Although their impact and responsibility is different, wider awareness and available information is making companies and individuals question the ESG work of businesses.

These findings from RSGI have lessons for all law firms – large and small. Traditionally it was only listed companies (in addition to energy businesses) that were under the spotlight when it came to their green credentials, but now law firms are too. Many – that is potential clients – may question if law firms can dish out valuable advice if they aren’t following it themselves.

In the future, law firms are likely to face reputational risk as well as the potential for legal action if it’s found they aren’t following their own advice. But as demand for climate change advice grows and the need to take action against climate change becomes vital, what can SME firms – who don’t have as extensive resources and costs but have responsibility in becoming greener – do to play their part? Here are a few small suggestions which can make a big difference:

Change up the commute

Inspire staff to commute to work using greener alternatives – such as public transport, for example, or encouraging walking and cycling where possible. Firms can take advantage of the cycle-to-work scheme, which provides tax benefits too.

Use sustainable products in the office

The availability of more sustainable and recyclable products on the market such as printer paper, toilet roll and cleaning products has made it easier and cheaper to source for businesses, and is a small but effective way of going greener.

Check out supply chains

You can’t always be picky, but it’s important that SME firms are still responsible when it comes to who they do business with. Check out your suppliers – do they have carbon cutting/green targets? Can you encourage them to match what you’re doing? A sure way of getting everyone to do their bit is putting it into your contracts with suppliers.

Take advantage of schemes

At Farani Taylor, we signed up to the London Mayor’s zero carbon emissions pledge – Business Climate Challenge – which provides funding to help businesses (including their buildings) be more energy efficient and bolster their efforts into eventually becoming zero carbon.

These are just a handful of examples that can help SME firms go greener and impact the advice they give out to clients too.

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