The annual study measures the sustainability achievements of law firms in Australia – not just environmentally, but also in terms of their people, community and governance.
AusLSA issued the 2017 edition on 29 November, analysing how 32 Australian law firms have contributed to creating a more sustainable legal sector across these four categories.
“A growing number of firms understand the business benefits, of which there are many, of their sustainability efforts,” said AusLSA co-chair Brendan Bateman.
“By being part of the AusLSA, and open and transparent in reporting and sharing information, firms are demonstrating to their people, their clients, and their peers that they value and want to take meaningful action to improve the wellbeing of their people, the community and the environment.”
Mr Bateman said the report highlighted some positive sustainability trends but also showed that firms have room for improvement.
Electricity and paper usage have both decreased in reporting firms since 2014, by 21 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.
The report also showed an increasing commitment to pro bono programs, which are now present in 91 per cent of reporting firms, as well as non-legal volunteering programs, present in 85 per cent.
Firms generally did well across the ‘people’ category, with gender equality policies present in 91 per cent, flexible working programs in 82 per cent and LGBTI inclusion policies up 10 per cent to 68 per cent.
However, firms’ business travel greenhouse gas emissions increased by 4.6 per cent in the last year and 7.9 per cent in the last three years. Their use of renewables and carbon offsets increased by 152 per cent over the last three years but plateaued this year.
“In areas such as business travel, firms can improve,” Mr Bateman said.
“After impressive increases over the last three years, renewables and carbon offsets have also plateaued this year.
“The purchase of recycled paper and other sustainable product choices is another area where firms can easily do more to protect biodiversity and conserve energy and water, while addressing the wide range of social issues influenced by their procurement choices.”