As countries at the recent COP27 summit stepped up their pledge to tackle climate change, law firms in Asia are also trying to fulfil their corporate responsibilities by doing their bit. Leaders share their firms’ path to achieving carbon neutrality in a region highly susceptible to climate disasters, and what impact they are anticipating from their undertakings.
HOW HAS YOUR FIRM BEEN ENDEAVOURING TO ACHIEVE CARBON NEUTRALITY IN ASIA? WHAT STEPS HAVE YOU TAKEN TO ADDRESS CONCERNS THAT WHETHER FIRMS ARE UPHOLDING THEIR PROMISE TO BE ENVIRONMENTALLY COMPLIANT?
MARC RATHBONE, partner, CMS
In April 2020, CMS ofﬁces around the world proudly announced the ﬁrm’s plans to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025. Our plans are backed by science-based targets to ensure independent veriﬁcation and align the ﬁrm with UN goals to limit a global temperature rise to 1.5˚C. Since then, the ﬁrm’s initiatives have included renegotiating electricity contracts across our ofﬁces to maximise supply from renewable sources; the creation of 20 work-streams to address climate change and sustainability; reviewing our suppliers’ carbon reduction commitments; the launch of the ﬁrm’s climate foot-print app “Test the Temperature” to help our team members assess their carbon footprints; working with PrintReleaf to plant over 4,000 trees to offset the ﬁrm’s paper usage; and the implementation of many environmental volunteering opportunities in all of CMS’ ofﬁces, involving our people as well as clients.
Earlier this year, the Singapore ofﬁce launched the CMS Community Composting Initiative in partnership with City Sprouts, a local urban farming community. Our own fee earners and staff members were involved in clearing space and supporting the contractors to secure the composting facility structure, sourcing food waste from nearby organisations, overseeing various stages of composting, and ﬁnally distributing the produced compost to community farmers and neighbouring residents.
Our colleagues in the Hong Kong ofﬁce have also organised clothing drives for Redress HK, an environmental NGO working to reduce waste in the fashion industry, who will sort and redistribute the donated clothes to a network of more than 20 local charities.
In support of our net zero goals, we will continue to empower our people and teams across our ofﬁces globally to make a difference within the ﬁrm and in the communities in which we operate.
HELEN KIPPAX and VANITA FULFORD-BROWN, general managers, Clifford Chance
Sustainability is important for our clients and our people, so we embrace systems and initiatives that support better use of energy resources and reduce CO2 emissions. One way we are doing this is by considering sustainability as part of the process when identifying buildings for new ofﬁces. When the leases were running out on our ofﬁces in Singapore, Syd-ney, and Perth, we established a project called Nest to ﬁnd suitable alternatives and worked alongside specialist consultants to ensure that each facility was as sustainable as possible.
Sustainability was one of the main criteria in Australia, and we only looked at buildings in Sydney and Perth that had a National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) ﬁve-star rating or above. These are exacting standards that the building has to adhere to around water quality, recycling, access to green energy, acoustics, waste and the materials used in the building.
Among the environmental features of the new ofﬁces in Australia will be water usage monitoring, more recycling points, and sustainably sourced ﬁt-out materials. The Sydney ofﬁce will be powered by green energy, while both buildings will use an online booking system to make desk usage more efﬁcient and reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.
This is a feature of the Singapore ofﬁce, too, where the project team decided to refurbish the existing ofﬁce space on a single ﬂoor, which will reduce the overall footprint. We followed a similar procedure to the ofﬁces in Australia where possible, which means we’ve been asking suppliers the same questions about sustainability and have sourced a lot of the ﬁttings and panels from recycled materials as a result.
Small steps collectively add up to reducing our overall impact on the environment. For instance, a barista coffee station will cut single-use coffee cup usage, which was speciﬁed in Sydney and Perth too. It’s a three-ofﬁce project, so we used the same sustainability consultants, which helped create a coherent and consistent approach.
BEN McQUHAE, founder, Ben McQuhae & Co
We have chosen to become a net zero carbon business in support of market leaders who have made net zero commitments so that we, being part of our clients’ supply chain and scope 3 emissions, will not negatively impact their carbon footprints.
To achieve this, we have developed our decarbonization strategy and have put in place measures to keep our carbon footprint as low as possible. We will source 100 percent renewable energy for our ofﬁce electricity consumption by purchasing Renewable Energy Certiﬁcates, and eliminate any remaining emissions we cannot remove from our operations and supply chain by investing in high-integrity carbon offsets. We are also developing our green procurement policy to support our net zero target and help inﬂuence our supply chain to improve its practices.
We are actively involved in the development of carbon markets including high-integrity offsets to catalyse the channelling of necessary funding to emissions reduction projects, such as for expedit-ing the development and /or commercialization of climate technology. In fact, we designed a contract and agreed on terms to buy China-originated high-integrity carbon credits (CCERs) offshore in August 2021.
To keep ourselves accountable, we will document our progress in our decarbonisation journey in an annual Impact Report which will transparently disclose our carbon footprint and GHG emissions inventory. We are in the process of putting together the Impact Report for our ﬁrst year in business, which we aim to publish in January 2023. Stay tuned and hold us accountable.