Later this week (22 April) is Earth Day, a day to demonstrate support for environmental protection and sustainability and remind us that the climate crisis has not diminished.
Environmental responsibility is not exclusive to one group in society and it requires both individual and collective action to make the difference.
In my role, I am reminded daily of the importance of environmental law to clients, whether it's analysing and assessing risks, meeting the environmental, social and corporate governance criteria of investors, or complying with disclosure obligations.
It's also important for law firms to commit to environmental responsibility too. The past two years of being in a pandemic has accelerated changes in the legal sector at a rate many would never have thought possible – completing negotiations and deals on Microsoft Teams instead of in physical rooms, using e-signatures to sign documents, conducting court business via virtual courtrooms – those changes have been driven by necessity, but show that change is possible, if the willingness is there. That same mindset can be applied when committing to making changes to improve sustainability and environmental performance.
One of the ways in which businesses can make a difference is by looking at where we work. Across Scotland, there are plans underway to reshape our cities into ones with low emission zones, low carbon heating options and buildings and offices that are more energy efficient.
As a professional services firm, our premises make up one of the larger components of our environmental impact, and it is an area in which we can control our choice.
Earlier this year we moved to our new Edinburgh office at Capital Square; part of a long-term strategy to bring our operations into buildings with the best environmental performance and sustainability credentials, with the aim of minimising energy use and our carbon footprint. The building is state-of-the-art, with energy efficiency and sustainability to be found in every detail: solar glazing, rooftop solar panels that feed back into running the building, low energy lighting, an advanced building management system to monitor and control energy use, a building-wide recycling scheme with zero waste to landfill aims, and a central Edinburgh location that enables greener commuting for cyclists, runners and users of public transport. The space is also designed to meet the WELL building standard – a seven-factor rating system that measures air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind, with the purpose of optimising the wellbeing and productivity of those who visit and work there.
Moving to sustainable low energy buildings allows us to take a positive step forward with the sustainability of our operations and to lessen our carbon footprint. Encouraging small changes in daily behaviours too can make an impact as they become amplified if adopted across an organisation. Turning off equipment and lights when not in use; only printing when necessary, minimising waste and reusing and recycling where possible; and being thoughtful about business travel are all good examples of simple actions to implement.
Of course, it doesn't stop there. Further progress still requires to be made. Being a responsible business is more about the journey than the final destination; if indeed there is an end point. Each business is different and must find its own unique path. There will always be new ways in which businesses like ours can challenge themselves to continually improve, adapt and flex. It is in that journey and learning experience, that the most value lies.
This article first appeared in the Scotsman.