However, boards shouldn’t lose sight of societal challenges, and their commitment to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues during tough times, and so it is incumbent on businesses to acknowledge the issues and to escalate the scale of change.
Achieving an overall positive environmental impact as a result of the way Shoosmiths does business is a priority for the firm. As a major UK law firm with 13 locations, including a large presence in Glasgow and Edinburgh and a workforce of more than 1600 colleagues, it is increasingly important to have meaningful and balanced goals across the three pillars of sustainability (environment, society and the economy) that can be measured and reported.
The upcoming COP26 UN Climate Change Conference, to be held in Glasgow this November, will no doubt focus minds on what can be achieved by collective action.
There are lots of organisations that can support businesses. The UN Global Compact for instance, is the world’s largest global sustainability initiative, and the firm has been a signatory since 2016. Shoosmiths has also been a corporate member of Business in the Community since 2000, supporting its Challenge 2030: make the climate crisis history. This calls for bold leadership from business to increase the speed of action, scale of ambition and scope of influence.
For law firms specifically, there is also a Legal Sustainability Alliance where firms can sign up to its Legal Renewables Initiative.
Our approach is based on demonstration of best practice; identifying and managing environmental risks and opportunities; and understanding and management of direct and indirect environmental impacts associated with our operations, products and services.
The focus for Shoosmiths is on pollution prevention, a carbon net zero emissions future through the Science Based Targets initiative (a collaboration between a number of organisations: CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute and the World Wide Fund for nature – WWF), responsible use of resources, waste avoidance; minimising the need for business travel and selecting products and services with reduced environmental impacts.
As such, the firm has set a bold target for its operations to achieve net zero emissions by 2025 and is committed to set science-based emissions targets across the entire value chain, consistent with keeping global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
The firm has recently hosted a series of sustainability roundtables with leading figures from large global and UK client businesses to help share ideas to deliver progress. Some interesting talking points emerged. There are lots of opportunities for companies to sign up to pledges, but there was an acknowledgment this must be paired with meaningful action. There must be a commitment to how companies will achieve the statements and pledges, and commensurate measurement.
Similarly, sustainability needs to be embedded in company strategies from the start. All businesses involved recognised the need to collaborate and work together to meet challenging targets and the firm will facilitate more client collaboration.
The ability of businesses to set and deliver ambitious sustainability goals is key. It is also incumbent on us to help each other, using collective action to create a better world.
Peter Duff is Chairperson, Shoosmiths LLP