National law firm sets validated science-based net zero target for 2040

Altmets: Early stage in the journey

National law firm TLT has become one of the few law firms to commit to achieving validated net zero targets by 2040, as verified by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).

The target leaves very little scope for carbon offsetting, such as paying for tree-planting, which can cover only the remaining 10% of emissions once a 90% reduction has been achieved.

Agnes Altmets, senior sustainability manager at TLT, said the law firm was already committed to being carbon neutral by 2025, in which offsetting plays a much larger part.

The firm was now committed, as part of its journey to net zero by 2040, to reducing gas and electricity emissions by 80% by 2030 compared to 2019, the last year before the pandemic.

Ms Altmets said a small example of how this could be achieved was getting rid of the firm’s diesel generator, which was there to power the email servers in an emergency, and replace it with a digital solution, which the firm was working on.

She said TLT would be switching to 100% renewable energy by the end of this financial year.

Ms Altmets said a harder task would be cutting emissions not connected with the firm’s use of fuel, particularly from its supply chain. The law firm has committed to a 47% reduction in these emissions by 2030.

She said the firm was “at an early stage in the journey”, setting up systems to monitor the environmental performance of suppliers.

The firm has a “relatively large” supply chain, whether it was IT companies or related to HR or facilities, and it was “unlikely” that everyone in it would commit to net zero immediately. She hoped that some would do in the medium-term, though it was likely to be by 2050.

Ms Altmets said that it was too early for TLT to specify what kind of offsetting it would employ to compensate for the remaining 10% of its emissions by 2040, but the firm would make sure it was “as credible as possible”.

She added only a “handful” of other law firms had adopted a net zero 2040 target, verified by the SBTi.

Though several law firms have made various commitments to working towards net zero, TLT joins Slaughter & May and Pinsent Masons as the only law firms with validated targets.

Maria Connolly, head of TLT’s real estate and future energy, said the firm’s suppliers were under pressure from other clients to reduce emissions, and pressure from TLT was “aligned to what they are doing anyway”.

Ms Connolly, executive board member for environmental sustainability strategy, said that when TLT was itself a supplier, it had to “demonstrate its credentials” on sustainability.

“Our clients have been much more focussed on the planet in the last 12-18 months, just as they have been on diversity and inclusion. It’s one of the key differentiators for them when deciding who to put on their panel.”

She said in the current “war” for legal talent, sustainability was “an important factor”, guiding lawyers’ decisions about which firms to stay at and which to move to.

The SBTi, a partnership including the United Nations and World Wide Fund for Nature, aims to provide companies with “a clearly-defined path to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement goals”.

Earlier this year TLT moved its Glasgow office into the city’s first net zero building.

The Cadworks building has no parking spaces, and instead has charging points for electric cars, racks for 150 bicycles, and e-scooters for clerks to deliver documents.

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