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Sustainability

15 October 2021

Read the latest in our series of blogs from our Innovation Manager, Nikita Patel on her recent talk at LegalGeek and how there are still acute sustainability challenges within Legal. 

This blog was written by Innovation Manager, Nikita Patel for the DWF Young Professionals Network

I recently had the fantastic opportunity to speak at the LegalGeek conference (live and in person!!) on the issues around sustainability and ESG in Legal. I joined my colleague Jay Dunning, Innovation Lead – Creativity & Design, on stage to pose question to our audience – when it comes to sustainability, what can the legal industry be doing better?

Some of the work that we do within the Innovation & Ventures team here at DWF is focused on horizon trends, and one of the topics we're really interested in is the growing discussion around sustainability in business. 

We all know that there is more to do around issues relating to each component of ESG, and the data in support of this is, quite frankly, unsettling. To give you an idea, here are some key facts: 

  1. Every day the worldwide economy burns the same amount of energy that the planet required 13,000 days to create.  
  2. Over 1/3 of the food that comes out of the world's farms is thrown away, this is whilst a billion people go hungry. 
  3. More than 792 million people (1 in 10 people) live with a mental health disorder. 
  4. The global gender pay gap stands at around 23%
  5. Governments around the world are losing $427 billion each year to companies that underreport their profit and therefore underpay their taxes based on their real economic activity. 

That's quite thought provoking, right? To me, these are the kinds of figures that make you stop and think – they make you think at an overwhelming scale, so what about if we bring it a bit closer to home? What if we think about legal?

I'm still quite new to legal, but there are a few things that I've observed since coming into the industry that maybe suggest there are sustainability challenges that are acute in legal:

  1. There is a gender pay gap. 
  2. Large offices and frequent business travel do impact on the environment.
  3. There are questions to be posed about social mobility and access to the profession for underrepresented groups like those from working-class, or ethnically diverse backgrounds.
  4. Problems around mental health and burnout are apparent and undeniable.
  5. At the moment we're hearing a lot about 'the great resignation' – well there's lots to suggest that many of our colleagues are leaving the industry to seek true purpose and meaning in the work that they do.

So all this has got us thinking, and we think that there is a role for legal to play – maybe this is as much an opportunity for innovation as it is a cause for concern.

There's no quick fix for the issues around ESG, it will take new ideas, thinking differently, and collaboration. So…we're running a legal design challenge where we aim to tackle one of the above industry challenges – if you'd like to take part, please sign up here and have your say! 

Further Reading