LOWNDES ASSOCIATES, a boutique corporate and commercial law firm, has recently become the first officially “carbon neutral” firm in New Zealand.
Lowndes is the first New Zealand firm to have achieved “carboNZero” certification — the most prominent form of carbon neutral certification in New Zealand issued by environmental research organisation Landcare Research. Being “carbon neutral” means that on balance, the firm does not add any additional carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
The firm’s managing partner, Mark Lowndes, explained that becoming carbon neutral was a three-step process. Firstly, the firm’s carbon footprint was measured and independently audited. Landcare Research then assisted the firm with preparing and implementing a management plan aimed at reducing the firm’s carbon footprint. Finally, the firm offset unavoidable emissions by purchasing carbon credits that have been certified by Landcare as being “Kyoto compliant”.
Some of the policies that the firm is in the process of implementing include switching to a carbon neutral electricity supplier and courier company, and using more climate-friendly technologies such as energy-efficient lighting.
Another important part of the process has been working with staff to reduce emissions at the individual employee level and according to Lowndes the response from employees has been very positive.
“They’re very attuned to what we’re doing and what it means and they’re very enthusiastic that we’ve done it. They’re keen to play their part and I think there’s a ripple effect because it’s made some of them think about it not only how they conduct themselves at work, but also at home,” he said.
Lowndes believes that New Zealand businesses in general are behind their overseas counterparts in their response to climate change and this was one of the key drivers that lead to the firm embarking on the journey to carbon neutrality.
“I wouldn’t want to speak for Australia but certainly in New Zealand we don’t think that businesses are sufficiently attuned to the fact that [climate change] is a real live business issue that affects profit and loss today,” Lowndes said. “We don’t seriously think we’re going to save the planet on our own but, aside from the smallish contribution that we can make as a firm, we’re trying to demonstrate to New Zealand businesses that it’s very important to respond to climate change and respond now.”
According to Lowndes, reducing the firms’ carbon footprint even further will be a continuous process. “It’s not just a goal where we shut the file and say ‘well, that’s done’. It’s very much a process that we’ve engaged in which will be ongoing. We will be consciously looking to improve and train and keep this issue in a high level of consciousness,” he said.