Yesterday (8 November), the Australian Legal Sector Alliance (AusLSA) released its annual report on the environmental performance of its member firms.
The report found that while law firms have reduced their consumption of paper (from 127kg of paper per employee in 2010-11 to 125kg in 2011-12) and reduced their electrical emissions by seven per cent, travel emissions have increased by 14 per cent since FY2010.
“There was a correlation that we noticed where the firms that were increasing their travel had been through the opening of an interstate office or had been involved in a merger with an international firm,” said Emily Wilson, the general manager of AusLSA when speaking with Lawyers Weekly. “In an industry like the legal industry, where face-to-face contact is vital, travel will always be required.”
The report found that global firms that participated in the study, such as DLA Piper and Norton Rose, had much higher travel emissions per head compared to national firms.
Of the 15 firms that reported this year and last year, five managed substantial reductions of flight-derived emissions (from 18% to 74%), five firms recorded modest travel emissions reductions and the remaining five firms recorded increases of between 15 to 119 per cent.
“It is about reviewing the need for travel and making sure people are only travelling when it is necessary and, when they do travel, encouraging them to make the most of that travel,” she said. “I am encouraging law firms through our programs to utilise and try out new technologies in the hope they can replace the need for travel.”
Nine of the 27 reporting members had purchased “green” electricity for part or all of their overall electricity consumption.
Keeping it under wraps
Twenty seven firms were included in the survey, with 16 AusLSA firms deciding to keep the details of their environmental performance under wraps.
Firms that did not open themselves up to scrutiny included Allens, Ashurst, Herbert Smith Freehills and King & Wood Mallesons.
All four of those firms were involved in high-profile international mergers this year.
“There were a variety of reasons why member firms chose not to report,” said Wilson. “A couple of firms that do their own reporting have their own systems of reporting and to report to AusLSA would be a duplication of effort, while for others it is about putting systems in place to allow them to get the data.”
Wilson said that she hopes that AusLSA’s membership will rise to around 60 in 12 months time, with 80 per cent of members reporting next year.
Wilson singled out Maddocks, Henry Davis York and FB Rice as firms that performed well in the survey.