Personal injury litigation law and social justice
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers is one of Australia’s leading social justice law firms. For nearly 100 years, they’ve helped everyday Australians use the law to fight back against unfair treatment. As a specialist litigation law firm, Maurice Blackburn acts on behalf of thousands of clients in personal injury, superannuation and insurance claims.
Since the door opened in 1919, Maurice Blackburn has been fighting to make a genuine difference to people’s lives, representing people who would otherwise not have a voice.
Reasons for undertaking sustainability measures
Maurice Blackburn wanted a more sustainable business and a smaller carbon footprint. They also wanted to monitor closely the results of their efforts. The firm engaged Pangolin Associates to help accomplish 3 key objectives:
- Putting an Environmental Management System (EMS) in place,
- Undertaking an annual carbon footprint (Greenhouse Gas Assessment) with the aim of becoming carbon neutral,
- Offsetting greenhouse gas emissions through the purchase and retirement of certified carbon credits.
Setting a policy for environmental excellence
As part of the EMS, Maurice Blackburn developed an Environmental Management Policy. The policy articulates the business’ commitment to protect the environment. It also sets guidelines for sustainable practices across the firm, and calls for staff compliance.
The policy incorporates:
- Comprehensive carbon assessments of operations nationally to:
- focus on an emissions reduction strategy,
- provide a benchmark for measuring progress,
- facilitate carbon offsetting.
It also includes:
- Educating staff,
- Conserving energy and water,
- Reducing waste,
- Implementing environmentally sound building refurbishments,
- Sustainable decision-making, e.g. in purchasing and sourcing suppliers,
- Buying consumable products from environmentally and socially sound sources,
- Recycling used computers,
- Reducing paper consumption,
- Facilitating and promoting greener commuting choices.
Achievements to date
Lower costs and more accurate monitoring
To date Maurice Blackburn has reduced its spend on electricity and water. Through Pangolin Associates’ Greenhouse Gas Assessments, the firm also monitors its emissions more accurately, tracking consumption of electricity, water, waste to landfill, telecommunications, Internet, etc.
Maurice Blackburn has been carbon neutral for 3 years. The firm followed the necessary steps to achieve neutrality:
- Measuring emissions via annual greenhouse gas assessments,
- Implementing green initiatives to lower emissions,
- Offsetting any remaining greenhouse gas emissions through the purchase and retirement of certified carbon credits.
- Energy and water conservation:
Maurice Blackburn has put energy saving systems in place. For instance, computers automatically switch off after 9 pm. Offices now have individual sensor lights and brown out blinds on north facing windows (Melbourne Head Office and all new offices). Additionally, dual flush toilets have been installed to save water.
The firm has reduced waste to landfill through secure and non-secure paper recycling, and recycling of glass and plastics.
New equipment has helped to reduce paper consumption. New printers count copies and operate on a secure print system. Employees must scan a card at the printer to receive print jobs. Jobs may be deleted if unnecessary, and automatically delete from the system after 70 hours. Duplex printing is encouraged.
- Stationery supplies and advertising:
Offices now stock greener stationery and supplies for marketing and advertising purposes, such as choosing paper with 80% recycled content.
- Fit outs and purchases:
Environmentally friendly purchases include sustainably sourced office furniture (including chairs, carpet and lighting) and fair trade coffee. Replacement office chairs, for instance, are Good Environmental Choice Australia certified.
- Staff commutes:
Maurice Blackburn undertook Pangolin’s Climate Change and Employee Commute Survey as part of their carbon footprint. They now measure the impact of staff commutes. A bike users group encourages environmental responsibility. The firm also offers employees yearly public transport tickets.
- Staff travel and freight:
Maurice Blackburn has reduced the amount of travel undertaken. It also monitors freight and seeks environmentally friendly transport options.
Future sustainability plans include increasing reporting accuracy. Maurice Blackburn will also continue staff education, focussing on what each individual can do to protect the environment.
Awards for environmental responsibility
To inspire a team approach to sustainability, each year Maurice Blackburn awards the office with the lowest carbon emissions. There are 26 offices in total. The firm’s CEO, COO and Head of the Sustainability Committee present the award at an annual function. In 2012, John Thwaites, former Deputy Premier of Victoria and climate change activist, was keynote speaker.
Maurice Blackburn has worked closely with Pangolin Associates for several years. Pangolin has helped us to monitor our carbon emissions and has provided us with reports aiding us in identifying where we can improve, and how we have improved as a sustainable business year on year. Through reducing our emissions and then offsetting what we can’t reduce Pangolin has helped us progress and lead sustainability initiatives within the legal sector. There are more steps to go in our journey and Pangolin’s partnering will remain important as we continue.
Steve Schuurmans, Chief Operating Officer