It seems that everything can be bought in an ecological or sustainable version these days. Sustainability is a topic that is being increasingly discussed in the media, but also in company board rooms and in the legal industry. Discussion is good, but we also need rapid action.
The IPCC (the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) published its Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC in October. A few weeks ago WWF issued its Living Planet Report showing the urgent need for a new global deal for nature and people to reverse the devastating trend of biodiversity loss.
The IPCC report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions and the reduction of global net human-caused CO2 by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This would make it easier to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030, which are focused on poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace but also on justice and the rule of law.
How should these threats (and perhaps opportunities) influence the way companies operate?
As members of FIBS, we at D&I believe that this list describes the sort of thinking that companies need in order to become truly sustainable. But it is not uncontroversial. At a law firm management conference in London recently, a leading partner at a respected law firm argued publicly that becoming sustainable could never require that a company would have to do more than the law requires. We lawyers are great believers in the notion that all problems can be solved through compliance with existing laws.
In our privileged role as trusted advisors to companies, we at D&I feel a particular responsibility. We have always been almost fanatic about creating added value to our clients. We want to think ahead for our clients and create sustainable value, value that lasts over time and under changing circumstances.
“We want to be measured by the sustainability of our advice.”
In the wake of global challenges such as global warming, we want to be part of the solution – not part of the problem. We want to be there for our clients to enable profitable business in the long term. That is why we want to be measured by the sustainability of our advice.
We want to support our clients in making the right and insightful choices to become increasingly sustainable. It requires much more than just traditional legal advice. It requires a holistic view of the choices we advise our clients on. Many decisions that used to be viewed as “legal technicalities” are today viewed from a much broader perspective. We must raise awareness of all relevant aspects of the decisions we advise on.
It’s a tough job and we are humbled by the challenge. But at the same time we are excited that we can create real added value, support sustainable business and build a better future together with our clients.