As our lawyer readers already know, one of TSL’s goals is to hear from sustainability experts or “green mavens.” This week we had the pleasure to do just that with Bob Pojasek, Sustainability Leader at The Shaw Group and Adjunct Professor at Harvard University. Naturally, Bob has a lot to say on the subject, but we tried to keep our initial talk focused on what law firms how law firms operate sustainable practices internally. Here’s what Bob had to say:
How do we define sustainability?
You might start with a definition: “Sustainability is how we transparently manage our responsibilities for environmental stewardship, social well-being and economic prosperity over the long term while being held accountable to our stakeholders.” Once that definition is in place firms can do a better job planning to manage their sustainability efforts.
What do law firms need to do to be more sustainable?
If you look around at work, there is probably a lot of sustainability already going on in your operations: purchasing of recycled paper; mandatory two sided printing, purchasing of Energy Star computers; time sharing and telecommuting options for your employees; contributions to local charities; code of conduct for ethics; and a variety of social well-being efforts such as diversity and wellness programs. In many cases it is more about the firm needing to capture these and other activities so that it can show that it is indeed “walking the walk” with sustainability. One firm I work with, Nixon Peabody, does an excellent job owning their sustainability initiatives and even has a Chief Sustainability Officer within the firm. In many cases firms need to do a better job of owning their initiatives as part of an overall sustainability plan.
What are some pitfalls when it comes to measuring and evaluating success when it comes to sustainability?
There is a growing trend for larger companies to require all of their suppliers to submit answers to questions regarding their sustainability practices as part of the sourcing and procurement process. Law firms have not been spared in this activity. I have found that law firms are often perplexed when the boilerplate questions are asking for information that does not pertain to them directly. The questions seem to be more germane to a manufacturing firm. There is further confusion because we often advise our clients on sustainability matters, but may not see that as theirs or their firms green practices.
After a great first talk with Bob, TSL is thinking of teaming up again to delve into some deeper issues. Sound off below if you have specific questions you want us to ask Bob.