In-house lawyers and litigators launch separate green initiatives

Woodhall: In-house lawyers can drive real change

In-house lawyers and litigators have launched separate environmental initiatives to push for, respectively, “real change” in their organisations and smaller carbon footprints.

Lawyers for Net Zero aims to develop key principles for in-house counsel to follow to ensure their employers keep to their pledges on the environment and avoid “greenwashing”.

A group of 20 in-house lawyers from companies including GSK, E.ON, Deutsche Bank and Arup have been piloting the idea and drawn up five draft principles.

They include a commitment to “deliver rapid practical action”, learn and share key knowledge and “influence suppliers”.

The group said there was “a massive, but largely unrecognised, opportunity for in-house lawyers to be a critical interface, who can support their organisation to deliver significant and rapid climate action”.

The group recognised that in-house lawyers were “time poor” and used “action learning groups” where four counsel meet every two to three weeks for a session on Teams with an expert facilitator.

Adam Woodhall, executive director of Lawyers for Net Zero, said in-house lawyers had a “potentially pivotal role” to play in driving sustainability and real change “into the heart” of their organisations.

“It’s a chance for them to lead and to support their businesses in leading the way as well.”

Anthony Kenny, assistant general counsel corporate at GSK, commented: “We have quite a unique view as, of all the functions, counsel are lucky to look across the whole business.

“One immediate benefit of Lawyers for Net Zero is that it’s creating a community of like-minded people coming together to share information and experiences.”

Lawyers for Net Zero is aimed exclusively at in-house lawyers. Early last year an independent collaboration of private practice and in-house lawyers, known as the Chancery Lane Project, started publishing model laws and contract clauses to help the profession fight climate change.

In a separate development, London law firm Mishcon de Reya has launched the Greener Litigation Pledge, a commitment to reduce the environmental impact of dispute resolution.

Other law firms which have signed up include Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Simmons & Simmons, HWF and Addleshaw Goddard, along with barristers’ chambers 3 Hare Court and Fountain Court and software company Opus 2.

The pledge commits lawyers to take steps to reduce the environmental footprint of their practices, including “actively promoting practical steps in litigation”, while maintaining the highest standards.

These include “walking, cycling or using public transport for journeys to court wherever feasible and appropriate”, corresponding electronically rather than by hard copy, promoting use of electronic bundles and considering whether witnesses should give evidence by video link.

Litigators should actively consider whether a hearing should be heard remotely, “in whole or in part, including by telephone or by video-link, and, where it is, making that suggestion to the court and other parties to the litigation”.

Kasra Nouroozi, chair of dispute resolution at Mishcon de Reya, said: “The challenges of conducting litigation during the pandemic provided the opportunity to question how things have always been done, and have shown us that we can conduct litigation differently.”

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