"Carbon neutral" has become more than a buzzword ambition for the legal industry, with a number of firms having now walked the talk and become carbon neutral.
Armstrong Legal was the first firm to be accredited as carbon neutral by carbon-neutral certification company Carbon Reduction Institute in July, and it claims to be Australia's first carbon neutral firm. Its move has since been followed by NSW firms William Roberts Lawyers and Streeterlaw Sydney Lawyers, and Victorian firm Doogue O'Brien.
Armstrong Legal partner Peter Magee explained that the firm's carbon-neutral project had humble beginnings; the firm's initial intention being only to try and improve its performance in the area of waste recycling. However, the idea quickly bloomed.
"Community awareness in relation to carbon neutral and environmental issues generally is on the rise, and ... initially, we were looking at how we could turn around and minimise our impact through waste recycling, and then we moved down the path of looking at becoming carbon neutral," he explained.
Initiatives the firm has taken include reducing emissions by compartmentalising lighting and air conditioning. "So the air-conditioning and the lighting generally fall into a number of zones, and it's a matter of not having zones on that aren't being used," he explains. "We don't have to light up a whole floor because someone wants to work back, or air-condition a whole floor because someone comes in early."
The firm is also offsetting remaining emissions by purchasing carbon credits from the Karnataka Renewable Energy Project in India, which generates renewable energy from clean-burning waste from agricultural products.
Magee says that once the firm had committed to becoming carbon neutral, the process was surprisingly straightforward. "It was actually quite a simple process once we'd made the decision ... I thought it would be far harder than it was," he says. "It sounds like a big thing, but the Carbon Reduction Institute really helped drive the process. They were able to lead us in relation to what we had to do in terms of record keeping so we knew what our carbon footprint was, and dealing with carbon credit offsets - they made that process quite easy."
The firm's staff members, Magee says, have enthusiastically embraced the challenge and client feedback also been positive. "It's certainly something clients are aware of and notice," he says. "I don't know whether it influences clients to turn around and make a decision in our favour, but it certainly doesn't hurt!"
- Zoe Lyon