Legal sector makes sustainability leap

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The Australian Legal Sector Alliance has released its 2015 Legal Sector Sustainability Insight, revealing encouraging results across environmental and people sustainability.

The environmental category saw the legal sector make significant progress, reducing electricity usage by 8 per cent per, consistent with the downward trend seen over the last three-year period. The use of paper in law firms has reduced by 9 per cent, also following a downward trend since 2012.

AusLSA general manager Richard Jennings told Australasian Lawyer that aside from the economic benefits for firms, employee and client expectations are driving firms to make changes.

“What we are seeing now is a much greater awareness not just of firms responsibility to manage their sustainability performance but also the advantages in addressing sustainability issues,” Jennings said.

“More and more law firm customers have expectations that their major suppliers share their values and ambitions to address sustainability issues. 

“This is undoubtedly a driver as is the expectation of the employees and partners who want to work for firms that are highly principled and share their own personal values.”

Business travel has decreased slightly, however the report found significant variances between the highest and lowest emitters.  Employees at global firms were found to travel three times more than employees at national firms and almost 11 times more than single or dual state firms. 

This year has seen 11 firms purchase carbon offsets or renewable electricity.  Sector wide, 23 per cent of emissions were offset by renewable energy and carbon credits, up three per cent from last year.

Jennings said among the long list of initiatives firms have put in place over the last 12-month period, energy efficiency works in new office fit outs and changes to the way interstate and international meetings take place including smarter planning, and the use of video conferences to reduce travel were trending.

“While the improvements this year are great reflection on the hard work and commitment of our reporting members, I think the most exciting thing we are seeing is the year on year results that are being achieved,” said co-chair Brendan Bateman.

“If the rest of the economy approached their greenhouse gas emissions in this way, Australia would be on the right trajectory to reach the more ambitious reduction targets required.”
 

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