Working collaboratively to promote sustainable practice across the legal sector

News & Views

  • 11 March 2015 10:39 AM | Anonymous member

    Great to see law firms investing in diversity and recognising that more diverse workplaces add value to the business and create a more sustainable business. 


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  • 03 March 2015 10:51 AM | Anonymous member

    Should firms carefully consider their ethical stance when choosing which companies to act for? 


    "Values-based companies outperform the market and competitors by astounding margins, according to various pieces of research, while leading commentators identify purpose-driven identity as being at the cutting edge of transformational management, increasing not only productivity but also employee engagement." 


    This is Sustainable Supply Chain Management. 


    Brandon: Ethical implications and the rule of law


    by Mark Brandon
    published in The Lawyer, 3 March 2014

    The law may traditionally be blind, but today’s firms should carefully consider their ethical stance when choosing which companies to act for.

    Much has been made of the role of global enterprise to impact and influence the progress of the world economy. When 1,100 people were killed in Bangladesh in a garment factory collapse in 2013, clothing companies in the West came under huge amounts of political pressure to help raise health and safety standards in the countries responsible for producing their cheap clothing. Similar pressure has been exerted in a range of industries, from fur to fracking, coffee to coal.

    Law, too, has its role to play. Allen & Overy – like every other international law firm – transacts hundreds of deals every week in practically every country around the globe, and aims, through its actions, to strengthen countries’ commitments to the rule of law: an admirable project, given that the rule of law should be the foundation of a stable civil society.

    Yet global companies, of course, are keen to invest where they can get satisfaction from the courts of the land. But while those courts might be happy to give a judgment against an incompetent contractor or acknowledge IP rights, those very same courts may also be responsible for condemning a woman to death by stoning for adultery.

    Beyond nasty regimes, we are all aware of global companies that play fast and loose with environmental impact, health and safety and labour regulations, financial propriety, taxation and basic human rights, arguing – through their lawyers – that local conditions and the exigencies of international competition effectively force them to play by rules in one part of the world that would see them out of business in half a minute in another.

    One could argue that in acting for such companies, and testing the boundaries of what is legal regardless of what is ethical simply in order to gain commercial advantage, law firms could be part of the problem, not the solution.

    Ethical neutrality

    The law is, famously, ‘blind’. The prosecution of criminal laws, however barbaric and inhumane they may be, is not germane to the completion of a water-treatment plant, for instance. The fact that a government imprisons and tortures journalists who dare to write in opposition of it is irrelevant to the completion of a deal to build a new runway at its international airport.

    But is ‘the law is blind’ a commercial position that is fit for purpose in the modern world, or will law firms’ vaunted ethical neutrality leave them at a competitive disadvantage in the coming decades?

    The corporate world is beginning to realise that existing simply to make money is not enough. Values-based companies outperform the market and competitors by astounding margins, according to various pieces of research, while leading commentators identify purpose-driven identity as being at the cutting edge of transformational management, increasing not only productivity but also employee engagement.

    A perfect storm of increasing consumer power and awareness, social media and a different political consciousness in the younger generations has delivered a series of rude shocks to companies around the world deemed to have offended a collective sense of what is right and wrong, from powdered milk manufacturers in China to fried chicken restaurants in the US.

    Choosing for whom to act – or not act – is, whether you like it or not, making a decision with ethical implications and, it would seem, increasingly commercial ones too.

    But making truly ethical choices is rarely straightforward or easy, as so-called ‘ethical’ investment funds have often found. You may not want to act for a tobacco company or arms manufacturer, but what about their suppliers? How about payday lenders or abortion clinics? How about a fashion designer who uses fur or a private landlord who routinely uses six-month tenancies and rent hikes to maximise yields while causing misery to tenants? Where does ‘ethical’ begin and end?

    Making a choice

    Internal opposition to ramping up ethical considerations will have plenty of persuasive arguments, ranging from the jurisprudential to the practical – ‘if we don’t do it, somebody else sure as heck will’.

    Lawyers, accountants, insurers, private equity funds and consultants all have a huge – often unseen – part to play in the development of world business. They can have a subtle, cumulative influence on how businesses operate, and thus how economies develop.

    They can choose how to act. They can choose for whom to act, whom to favour with their counsel, whose star to set on the ascendant.

    And yet those choices themselves may come to define the advisers. If there is an ethical aspect to the winners of the future, could a reluctance to look at the issue mean you end up backing the losers?

    So what is your stance? Or do you even have one?

    Mark Brandon is managing director of Motive Legal Consulting


  • 02 March 2015 1:45 PM | Anonymous member

    Five steps to Safeguard your data from Cyber Threats


    Becoming more mobile and adopting paperless practices inevitably raises the topic of data security. 


    Presented by the ABA's Legal Technology Resource center, this webinar is presented by  legal technology expert Michael Krieger who discusses what threats are rising to the top of security experts’ minds, what the most vulnerable attack surfaces in the legal enterprise are, and what every firm can do now to begin to reduce their risk factors.

    • How the threat landscape is changing
    • What you need to know about cloud security
    • Best practices in threat mitigation
    • What you should do now to ensure your data’s future safety



  • 25 February 2015 11:53 AM | Anonymous member

    Fantastic to see more law firms making commitments to supporting the indigenous community. Twelve law firms have signed up to the CareerTrackers - the indigenous internship program - including AusLSA Members:

    • Allen & Overy
    • DLA Piper
    • Gadens
    • Henry Davis York
    • Herbert Smith Freehills
    • King Wood Mallesons
    • Minter Ellison

    Lander & Rogers (another AusLSA Member!) is the newest firm to formally adopt a Reconciliation Action Plan joining:

    • Allens
    • Ashurst
    • Clayton Utz
    • Corrs Chambers Westgarth
    • DLA Piper
    • Gadens
    • Gilbert + Tobin
    • Herbert Smith Freehills
    • Law Institute of Victoria
    • Norton Rose Fulbright

    From the Australasian Lawyer - 25 February 2015. 

    Firms pledge their commitment to indigenous Australians

    by  | 

    A number of Australian law firms have committed to programs to work with indigenous communities this week.
     
    Lander & Rogers has launched a reconciliation action plan to formalise the firm’s work with indigenous communities.
     
    Joanna Renkin, pro bono partner, says that cementing the work the firm is doing by writing a Reconciliation Action Plan, was a good way to set clear objectives and measure their contribution.
     
    “Reconciliation Australia, with the support of business and government, have really been promoting RAPs as a practical step for businesses and organisations to make a contribution to closing the gap,” she said.  “Having a RAP means we can really contribute to reconciliation more broadly and in a more structured and measurable way.”
     
    In writing the plan, Renkin said that the firm consulted extensively with the organisations that they are supporting.
     
    “We’ve really talked a lot to the organisations we work with in order to make the RAP realistic,” she said.  “We value the relationships we’ve built and we think they’ve got a lot of integrity – we think our people are genuinely engaged in reconciliation.”
     
    While the firm has been involved with a number of different programs over the years, Renkin said that she hopes that having a formal plan will encourage more staff members to get involved.
     
    “We certainly believe that our firm and the wider Australian community can be enriched through building cultural understanding – we have always felt that there’s always more to learn and we think that the RAP will help us achieve a way of building on those learnings,” said Renkin. 
     
    Earlier this week, Herbert Smith Freehills and Gadens were among the 12 organisations to sign a ten year agreement with CareerTrackers. The partnership will see those organisations provide 3,500 internships to indigenous university students over the next decade. The program assists indigenous tertiary students to build their skills for a career in the private sector.


  • 23 February 2015 11:06 AM | Anonymous member

    Media release from Allens - 

    ALLENS JOINS INNOVATIVE SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAM, BECOMES CARBON NEUTRAL

    23 February 2015

    Allens has signed on as a major corporate partner of the Qantas Future Planet Partnership, a carbon offset program supporting innovative projects that reduce emissions, protect wildlife and aid local communities.

    Allens has also become the first Australian law firm to be certified as carbon neutral under the Federal Government's National Carbon Offset Standard.

    The Qantas Future Planet Partnership will see Allens join other leading Australian organisations as partners in the program, which provides access to carbon offset projects – across Australia, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, Peru and other parts of the world – that have been verified to the highest international standards for emissions reductions, environmental outcomes and community benefits.

    As part of the program, Allens will support the North Kimberley Traditional Owners, who have established a Savannah Burning Project. The project sees Aboriginal land owner groups in the North Kimberley reduce carbon emissions through traditional fire management techniques.

    Allens Partner and Chair of the firm's national Footprint Committee Phillip Cornwell said the firm was proud to be a partner in this innovative project.

    The sale of the carbon offsets generated by the project will provide communities in the North Kimberley with work and a source of revenue while protecting the region's biodiversity and sustaining cultural traditions and connections with the land,' Mr Cornwell said.

    'We continually look for innovative ways to become a more sustainable firm and this venture with Qantas certainly fits that bill.

    'This partnership is fantastic because it aligns with a number of our community programs and objectives. Allens has been supporting indigenous projects for many years through our pro bono work and, since 2009, under our Reconciliation Action Plan. Purchasing carbon offsets in partnership with Qantas will provide us with another avenue to support the first peoples of Australia.'

    Mr Cornwell said he was also proud of the firm's achievement of being certified as carbon neutral this financial year. 'The firm continually looks for ways to reduce energy use, paper consumption, travel and waste, with the initiatives being driven by Allens partners, lawyers and corporate services staff on the firm's Footprint Committees.' Emissions reduction initiatives include a major upgrade to our video conferencing facilities and switching to more energy efficient printers and computers.

    'Our efforts saw greenhouse gas emissions referable to our Australian offices fall 12.8 per cent last financial year.'

    The firm also conducted more than 1600 hours of pro bono work for environmental organisations in 2014.

    Mr Cornwell said that Allens will continue its focus on emissions reduction initiatives and will only purchase carbon offsets that meet the high standards of the National Carbon Offset Standard and align with Allens' community objectives.

    The carbon neutral certification relates to the firm's Australian offices; however, the firm also offsets emissions for its Asian offices.

    Ends

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:


  • 12 February 2015 4:39 PM | Anonymous member

    • Mandatory 'sustainability' reporting for EU Companies is currently underway with full compliance required by 2017. 
    • Companies will be required to report against a recognised framework like the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). 
    • The Directive aims to drive transparency on non-financial information

    Originally published by Greenstone 5 December 2014. Greenstone supports AusLSA by providing the Environmental Reporting Tool for Membership Reporting.  


    5 need to know facts about the EU directive on non-financial reporting

       

    In April 2014, the EU adopted a new directive on disclosure of non-financial and diversity information by large companies and organisation. This new directive will have direct implications for those affected by the change. But before you begin to worry about what this might involve and how quickly you need to act to, read these 5 facts to find out more about what you need to know on the new EU directive on the disclosure of non-financial information.


     1) Who does the EU directive on non-financial reporting affect? 


    The new directive affects certain large companies (large public interest entities) with over 500 employees operating within the EU. This includes roughly 6,000 of the 42,000 large companies incorporated within the European Union. 


    2) What will need to be reported on? 

    Companies that come into the scope of the new directive will be required to report on: policies, risks and outcomes in regards to environmental matters, social and employee-related aspects, respect for human rights, anti-corruption and bribery issues, and diversity on boards of directors. When it comes to reporting on the diversity of boards of directors, large listed companies will have to provide information on their diversity policy, for example age, gender, educational background and professional background. Companies affected must also disclose “useful information necessary for an understanding of their development, performance, position and impact of their activity, rather than detailed reports.” (Source: http://europa.eu) 


    3) When does it come into play? 

    Whilst the new directive has come into play and companies need to start abiding by the legislation, there is a two-year transition period so companies can adapt to the new to the new requirements. Companies will have to start reporting against the requirements of the directive as of their financial year 2017. 


    4) What are the associated reporting standards? 

    Whenever new legislation comes into practice or a new directive is announced, it is important to know by what standards you have to report against. For the new directive on disclosure of non-financial reporting and diversity information by large companies, the European Commission have said that companies may use international, European or national guidelines which they consider appropriate. Companies will be urged to use an acknowledged framework, including GRI, UNGC, the UNGP on Business and Human Rights, OECD Guidelines, ISO 26000 and the ILO Tripartite Declaration. 


    5) What is the expected impact of the directive? 

    The idea behind the EU directive on non-financial reporting is to drive transparency and the disclosure of non-financial information. This in turn should help improve the relevancy, consistency and comparability of non-financial and diversity information disclosed by companies. 


    It shows a growing trend towards formalising reporting on non-financial information through legislation. 


    Overall the new directive aims to make business more transparent through the reporting of non-financial information, including; environmental, social, employee, human rights, anti-corruption, bribery and diversity. Affecting roughly 6,000 large public interest entities, these companies will be required to report on the new information in their financial year of 2017, this giving a 2-year transition period to get used to the requirements. 


    Want to find out more about reporting standards and requirements? Download Greenstone's eBook on non-financial reporting frameworks


  • 10 February 2015 5:21 PM | Anonymous member

    Following on from our discussions in Q2 on waste from refits and defits, comes this blog post from The Fifth Estate: 

    Challenges to the industry: what we can’t recycle and why?


    The ongoing work of the SIEN in the building fitout space has resulted in some great successes and has allowed a thorough exploration and identification of the challenges we still face to divert materials from landfill.

    When considering options for material diversion the SIEN uses the following hierarchy; reuse, reconditioning, recycling (by output value) and energy recovery.
    The following materials are present in almost all office fitouts and in most cases are also quite heavy, contributing significantly to the disposal costs of a defit, which can be up to $250 a tonne. Their potential reprocessing streams are discussed in turn:
    Broadloom carpet – While reuse and recycling are possible there is no scalable existing solution. Use as soil stabilisation and dust management in construction sites is being explored.
    Carpet tiles – Many leading brands offer a “take-back” or product stewardship scheme for their products. It is urged that new fitouts adopt the product of these market leaders.
    Ceiling tiles – Traditionally made from generally low value mineral fibres, these products have operating recycling schemes overseas. The SIEN is working with ceiling tile providers, including Armstrong and CSR to find recycling stream domestically; both have schemes overseas and Armstrong is the most advanced in dealing with this issue in Australia.
    Laminated and composite timber products (such as melamine and MDF) – Other than reuse there is little scope for recycling most composite timber products. Energy recovery from waste currently provides the best opportunity for these materials. We hope to be sending the first batches of laminated wood products for energy recovery in early 2015.
    Furniture – The SIEN’s efforts here centre on reuse, due to the value of the product. The heavy use of laminated or composite timbers in many office furniture items makes them generally difficult to recycle.
    Any further information on emerging technologies or operating processing facilities interested in being involved with the SIEN should contact Edge Environment.


    The Fifth Estate - an online newspaper for green buildings and sustainable development


  • 04 February 2015 11:29 AM | Anonymous member
     
    Earth Hour will take place on Saturday 28 March this year and this year there are a number of new and unique ways for businesses to be involved.

    Earth Hour started in 2007 as a lights-off event to raise awareness about climate change. Today, one in every three Australians and an estimated 2 billion people worldwide take part

    Earth Hour is a community focused initiative which reminds us that no-one can do everything, but everyone can do something to tackle global warming.

    For one hour on this night, millions of Australians in cities and towns across the country will join with Australia’s greatest landmarks and buildings to turn off their lights.

    We hope that businesses will once again switch off your lights between 8.30pm and 9.30pm on March 28 as part of this incredible event.


    Earth Hour 2015 (brochure)


    This year we are also offering businesses a number of other opportunities to be involved, including the chance to hear from the head of Australia’s Earth Hour team and Australian Geographic Conservationist of the Year, Anna Rose. 

    Dates are limited so if you would like to discuss the opportunity for Anna Rose to speak to your employees about Earth Hour, get in touch with the team through Monica Richter mrichter@wwf.org.au. We’re keen to talk to your employees and businesses about how everyone can make a difference.

    Please see the attached Earth Hour Business Brochure for more information, and here’s a link to our brand new Earth Hour 2015 video 




    Please get in touch with questions or to find out more about how you can register for Earth Hour.
    Akasha Sutherland
    Lights Out Campaign Coordinator- Earth Hour
    asutherland@wwf.org.au


  • 22 January 2015 10:46 AM | Anonymous member


    Webinar Recording: 

    Creating a Paperless Law Office

    Catch up on this webinar from the PaperlessChase.com which is based in the USA,. 


    During this webinar, Ernest Svenson (aka “Ernie the Attorney“), explained the ins and outs of transitioning to a paperless law office. Among other things, he covered:

    • Benefits & challenges in shedding paper in your firm
    • The roadmap & best practices for going paperless
    • Storing & managing digital documents
    • Myth-busting: “Paperless” is not paper free
    One interesting statistic we learned during the webinar was that 26% of the webinar attendees’ law offices were nearly paperless. Not bad!


    Webinar Recording



    Slidepack
  • 21 January 2015 12:46 PM | Anonymous member


    Have you made a change at your firm that increased efficiency, reduced energy use, reduced paper or promoted better waste practices?


    Why not share it with your peers? 


    It doesn't have to be a grand or sophisticated program, just something that made a difference. 


    AusLSA would love to share your stories through blog posts or webinars. 


    You can also send through topics of interest or ideas for guest speakers that we could interview. 


    Email Emily with your suggestions. 


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