30 Jun 2021

Coalition of top firms pledge to halve operational greenhouse gas emissions by 2030

Firms will deploy 'robust, science-based targets' to help achieve global net zero emissions target

A group of more than 20 law firms, including Baker McKenzie, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Shearman & Sterling and Slaughter & May, have committed to accelerating the reduction of firm-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as members of a new international alliance.

Participants in the Net Zero Lawyers Alliance (NZLA) also include leading European firms such as Ireland’s Arthur Cox, Finland’s Castrén & Snellman and London-based Mishcon de Reya, as well as Brazil’s Mattos Filho Veiga Filho Marrey Jr & Quiroga.

They have agreed to both reduce their own GHG emissions and do so through the legal services they provide. Spokesperson Wendy Miles QC, of barristers' chambers Twenty Essex, said: “We are delighted to announce the launch of the Net Zero Lawyers Alliance, [as] a flagship initiative of London Climate Action Week, and to welcome the inaugural member firms to the NZLA.”

The founder members have each agreed to reduce their GHG emissions so as to help reduce global warming to 1.5C, or net zero, by 2050 – and to reduce operational emissions by at least half by 2030 from 2019 levels.

They have also committed to work with clients in helping to manage their own transition and decarbonisation objectives – on a cross-sectoral basis – offering training and pro bono support to do so. That mirrors other green initiatives, such as the launch of the Greener Litigation Pledge, earlier this week. 

NZLA members will also build client understanding of often-complex legal frameworks which underpin climate change initiatives, thus ensuring that the legal business NZLA members actually do for clients reflects their own net zero ambitions in client contracts, contractual terms and, crucially, enforcement. 

Justin D’Agostino, CEO, Herbert Smith Freehills, said: “With so many of our clients already embarking on ambitious decarbonisation journeys, this public commitment shows we're truly on the net zero journey with them.” 

Susan Bright, Hogan Lovells’ global managing partner for responsible business, agreed, saying NZLA membership “further demonstrates our commitment to playing a leadership role in driving inclusive and sustainable growth, including in the way we run our own business”.

Her fellow partner, infrastructure lawyer Philip Brown, said the launch also recognised “the critical role of law firms to support businesses moving to sustainable operations, and to drive awareness behind achieving transition and decarbonisation in order to meet Net Zero goals”. 

Simon Levine, global co-CEO, DLA Piper, told Global Legal Post he was keen to see other law firms join, for while firms could take responsibility for their own emissions “as lawyers we can also have a material impact on our clients’ journey in tackling the climate emergency”.

“Ensuring our lawyers have the capability to help clients in this regard and providing pro-bono hours to help shape a regulatory landscape that supports reducing the world’s carbon footprint is not only important, it is critical,” Levine added. 

The launch of the NZLA was endorsed by senior business figures, including former governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney.

Carney, now a UN Special Envoy on Climate Action, and a UK government climate finance adviser, said: "It's fantastic to see the [NZLA] bring commercial lawyers into the collective effort to support businesses and financial institutions transition to net zero. 

“Collaboration between lawyers and [the] financial sector will be an important part of building a financial system for net zero." 

Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary, UN Convention on Climate Change, also endorsed the NZLA. “Commercial lawyers are critical to the informed transition of energy, industry, infrastructure and land use systems to net zero,” she said. “The Race to Zero benefits enormously from their guidance in commercial contracts, as well as suggestions for forward leaning commercial law."

The full list of firms in the alliance is as follows: Arthur Cox, Baker McKenzie, Bates Wells, Burges Salmon, Castrén & Snellman, Clifford Chance, Clyde & Co, DLA Piper, Draper & Draper, Eversheds Sutherland, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Mattos Filho Veiga Filho Marrey Jr & Quiroga, Mishcon de Reya, Pinsent Masons, Pollination Group, Reed Smith, Shearman & Sterling, Slaughter and May and Taylor Wessing.

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