Science clearly demonstrates that urgent action is required to tackle climate change, and many firms and organisations are already taking steps to reduce their carbon emissions.

For small organisations, it is easy to question what sort of impact you can have. We recognise that smaller firms and organisations may lack the in-house resource, time and expertise to create and implement their own strategies to tackle the climate crisis.

This section is designed to signpost those who are not sure where to start towards useful resources to help you understand and reduce your carbon footprint, implement sustainable practices and engage your colleagues and partner organisations.

Steps you can take

For resource-light small businesses, you may wish to consider starting your sustainability journey by simply taking one or two relatively small actions and building from there. Below are some suggestions:

Measure emissions

Measuring your carbon emissions is key - you can’t lower your emissions if you don’t know what they are. There are many organisations which have free to use carbon footprint calculators. For example: The Business Carbon Calculator is offered for free through the SME Climate Hub.

Set targets

Once you’ve calculated your current carbon footprint, the next step is to adopt science-based net-zero targets and reducing your business emissions to meet these. This might include making a commitment to reach net zero by 2050 at the latest and setting an interim target towards this.


Relevant resources

Scottish Enterprise has sustainability specialists that work with businesses of all sizes and across all sectors, offering a range of support including access to its own Net Zero Accelerator tool and follow up support on how to do things more economically, efficiently and with a reduced impact on the environment. 

Find out more about the Society’s own commitments.

 

Organisations can take several steps towards being more energy efficient. Reducing energy consumption is not only essential for helping organisations reach their net zero targets, according to the Energy Saving Trust the average small and medium sized business could reduce energy bills by 18 – 25% by installing energy efficiency measures and implementing behavioural change.

Key areas that may benefit from energy efficiency improvements include:

Lighting

Are you using the most energy efficient LED lightbulbs? Is continuous lighting being unnecessarily used in spaces such as meeting rooms / corridors and could motion sensor lights be installed? Are you making the most of natural light?

Heating

Is your heating system regularly serviced to ensure it is working most efficiently? Are your thermostats (both for heating and cooling the space) set at the appropriate temperatures? Have you identified the source of any drafts and fit appropriate draught proofing? Can you switch to a more sustainable form of energy and obtain electricity from a renewable source where possible?

Equipment

Are you switching off equipment when not in use (e.g. monitors, printers)? Are you able to replace older model equipment for those with better energy efficiency (e.g. switching desktop computers for laptops, installing printers that power down when not in use, considering more up-to-date kitchen equipment like kettles and microwaves)?

Relevant resources

Business Energy Scotland provides a range of resources to support organisations plan and implement energy saving initiatives, from free toolkits and guidance to “Green Champions” training and staff engagement plans (see more below). It can also help SMEs to access Scottish Government funding to help you pay for your energy efficiency projects. Find out more about the SME loan scheme.

Reducing waste and maximising the value of our resources plays an important part in tackling the climate crisis. Many firms and organisations will already have implemented a number of initiatives, such as

  • Creating a workspace with a reduced environmental footprint by reducing, reusing and recycling waste, including single-use plastics.

  • Reducing and avoiding printing where possible.

  • Encouraging and using electronic communication, documents, meetings, and videoconferencing where appropriate, accessible and acceptable to all parties.


Relevant resources

Organisations such as Zero Waste Scotland can provide support, funding and expert knowledge to help organisations adopt circular business practices. This includes a toolkit which helps you to measure and monitor your business waste.

Zero Waste Scotland also supports the Climate Action Hub created by the Scottish Business Climate Collaboration (SBCC). SBCC is a group of Scotland’s leading businesses who have joined forces to accelerate the net zero journey and engage, enable and support SMEs by creating practical programmes to equip businesses to achieve net zero.

Additional useful advice and guidance can be found here:

Indirect emissions, relating to an organisation’s supply chain (also known as “scope 3 emissions”), are generally the primary source of emissions for law firms and many other organisations that are providing a service rather than creating a product. Scope 3 emissions include those associated with business travel, purchased goods and services (including catering, IT, stationery and furniture), and investments.

These can be harder to identify, quantify and mitigate against. You may wish to consider:

Carefully selecting suppliers

Where possible, use suppliers and service providers who are committed to reducing their environmental footprint and align with your business values. This may include in relation to office space and operations; equipment; insurance and financial services; marketing and design services. It is worth carrying out proper due diligence before onboarding a supplier, to make sure climate impact is at the forefront of their operations. For example, the Society’s Guide to IT Procurement includes questions you could ask suppliers when purchasing IT goods and services.

Creating a travel policy

Introducing a travel policy which promotes active travel and use of public transport where possible.

Being climate-conscious in drafting and agreeing contracts

Being climate-conscious in drafting and agreeing contracts which are part of your own supply chain. The Chancery Lane Project offers open source climate clauses that you can build into your drafting. You’ll find more information on the Chancery Lane Project in our Supporting your clients section. 

Reviewing staff benefits

Review the environmental impacts and risks of staff benefits, including pensions.

Employee engagement plays an important role in supporting an organisation to achieve its sustainability objectives. Employees who feel engaged and empowered are more likely to be committed to an organisation’s goals. However, you should also be mindful that implementing any new policy or objective is an organisational change. Change can be stressful for staff and should be considered in a risk management context. 

Some strategies to support employee engagement include:

Communication and education

Clearly communicate your firm or organisation’s sustainability goals and why they matter. Ensure colleagues understand how they can contribute, for example by raising awareness of energy use, its implications and the difference staff can make by implementing behavioural changes.

Lead by example

Ensure that your senior leadership demonstrates a commitment to sustainability, by actively participating in sustainable practices and championing any initiatives you introduce.

Create “green champions”

Business Energy Scotland offers a range of free online modules which promote the benefits of resource efficiency and will support interested colleagues to become champions of your sustainability goals.

Engage in sustainability challenges

Some organisations create friendly competitions designed to promote sustainable practices, such as a waste reduction or an active travel challenge.

Help colleagues save energy at home

Home Energy Scotland provides a free and interactive employee engagement service, giving you access to workshops, e-learning and other content to share with your colleagues.

Relevant resources

The Carbon Trust has produced a guide specifically around engaging staff in making the workplace more energy efficient.

Having made a commitment to reduce your firm or organisation’s carbon footprint and taken steps towards establishing achievable climate related goals, you may wish to openly discuss your progress.

Client demand for climate conscious legal practice may influence how law firms win and retain business. For in-house teams, environmentally-conscious customers or service users may be increasingly choosing products and services that align with their climate goals and values.

Additionally, your firm’s or team’s ability to attract and retain employees may be influenced by its approach to climate change.

However, firms and organisations must be careful not to mischaracterise or overstate climate-related targets or progress. This has the potential to leave your organisation open to accusations of greenwashing, in breach of the Competition & Markets Authority’s Guidance on Environmental Claims (Green Claims Code) and/or the Society’s own practice rules on advertising and promotion.

There are a number of additional key drivers for taking action, including:

  • Clients, customers and stakeholders are increasingly demanding to know how the businesses they procure services and products from are responding to the climate crisis. As a result, organisations are beginning to recognise commercial opportunities in leading the transition to net zero and the cost of failing to act.

  • Employees are increasingly attracted to organisations that can demonstrate they are aligned with their own personal values, including in relation to global issues such as climate change.

  • Regulatory changes which may require many companies with a larger footprint to comply with certain supply chain standards, for example the European Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive.