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Minter Ellison lives up to responsibilities

THE ONLY law firm globally and Australia’s only professional services firm to participate in the Corporate Responsibility Index (CRI), Minter Ellison has achieved an ‘outstanding’ ranking in the community management and workplace management categories.

Minter Ellison has participated in the index since it was introduced to Australia in 2003. Created in the UK, it measures companies against a broad range of corporate responsibility indicators and benchmarks participants against their peers, sector and economic group in the global marketplace. Other participants in Australia include Westpac, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

The index divides companies into gold, silver and bronze medal categories and ‘participants’. “We are a participant, but our goal for 2006 is to, as a minimum, move into the bronze category,” said Anton Herman, Minter Ellison’s national director of pro bono and community investment.

To do that, the firm will focus on areas in which it has an opportunity to improve, including environmental management. “We now have a publicly available environmental policy. The challenge for us now is to make sure that we set and meet internal targets in accordance with that policy,” Herman said.

Assisting the firm’s performance on environmental issues is its involvement in the Federal Government’s Greenhouse Challenge Plus, which supports management of greenhouse gas emissions through emissions inventory reporting and the implementation of plans to achieve cost-effective abatement. The firm piloted its involvement in the Brisbane office, where a number of initiatives to reduce electricity consumption were successfully introduced.

These have included a policy of switching off all computer screens overnight, which alone has created a “huge” saving on electricity, and considering energy efficiency ratings when buying new appliances. The firm’s involvement in the Challenge will expand nationally this year.

“It does take incremental progress year on year to get up to the sort of level that you want to be at, so it requires a long term commitment,” Herman said. He added that CRI was a better model for publicly listed companies rather than partnerships and the firm had to adjust some of its systems to ensure it was compliant. This was a possible explanation for the lack of involvement by other law firms.

“For most law firms, the best way of demonstrating commitment to the community is through pro bono legal services and other types of community involvement,” Herman said.

“It becomes more challenging when the index takes you out of that comfort zone and addresses a range of other issues in terms of governance models, environmental management and a host of other issues.”

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