Four out of 10 big law firms have ‘energy-burning’ websites

Websites: Energy usage needs to be addressed to meet net-zero goals

More than 40% of the top 200 law firms have been awarded an ‘F’ rating (the worst) for the energy used by their websites.

Simon Marshall, founder of legal marketing agency TBD, said reducing load times and image sizes could “have real-world consequences in terms of carbon emissions”.

In his report on the carbon footprints of the top-200 firms’ websites, Mr Marshall said websites “contributed significantly to carbon emissions through their energy consumption and hosting infrastructure”.

He awarded the lowest grade, ‘F’, to 82 (41%) of them. Only 7% achieved an A grade, with 20% getting a B, 12% a C, 10% a D and 5.6% an E. More than six out of ten firms used green energy, but they were more likely than others to receive an ‘F’ grade.

He said that grades of E and above were considered to be good because they were above the global average.

Mr Marshall used to calculate the energy and emissions of law firm web pages based on the amount of data transferred when a web page is loaded, the average energy intensity of web data and the average carbon intensity of grid electricity.

For law firms using green energy, carbon emissions were reduced. This includes firms that combine standard grid electricity with offsetting.

Once all the data was put together, the amount of web traffic was taken into account by multiplying carbon emissions by the typical number of annual page views.

The worst performing firms were Hogan Lovells, Clyde & Co, Clifford Chance, Devonshires, Brodies, Wright Hassall, Bird & Bird, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Herbert Smith Freehills – all awarded an F grade. Dentons, which came tenth, was given an D grade.

Hogan Lovells was estimated to be emitting 1,728.52 kilos of CO2 per year through its website. Dentons emitted 815.07 kilos – despite having a better website than the others in top 10, the sheer volume of traffic meant its total emissions were higher than most..

Things were different when it came to carbon emissions per members of staff, however, with midlands firm Wright Hassall the worst performer with 4.25 kilos per member of staff, followed by Devonshires with 3.55 and Brodies with 1.26.

Mr Marshall said firms would not reach their net zero goals unless website energy use was tackled.

Websites were “traditionally been a blind spot” because they are down the supply chain.

Offsetting was “a short-term option for firms who don’t want to go through a whole rebuild”, and the best option was “building in lower impact” from the outset.

“Coincidentally, Google prefers these pages and so you’ll improve both the environment and your SEO by reducing page size.”

Mr Marshall added: “This report should be viewed as a starting point for law firms. Having done the analysis, we now have a benchmark to aim at.

“There are various quick wins that will allow firms to make significant progress over the next few months and we’re already working with teams to help them make progress.

“The road to net zero is knotty but essential. I was pretty annoyed with how poorly our own site performed when we ran these tests. So we’re tackling that as a team now to lift our own rating to a grade C and offsetting in the meantime.”

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