“A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!”
When Shakespeare wrote Richard III, horses were the only means of travel and it is fair to say they were almost certainly carbon neutral and certainly produced a bi-product that all good rose growers value greatly.
If this famous play were being written today, a politically correct playwright would almost certainly be substituting a horse with not just a car, but a hybrid or fully electric car. And it is not only about political correctness, it is the future of our planet which is at stake...not just a kingdom.
When I was chatting to a dealer at a recent County Show in the West Country, I was intrigued at the range of fully electric motorcycles he had on offer. Enquiring after the performance and lasting power of the batteries for these machines, the salesman explained that battery powered vehicles have a limited lifespan, since there is a limited supply on our planet of the Lithium to manufacture the endless need for lithium-ion (LiOn) batteries. The way forward I was told will be hydrogen, which potentially can produce an endless supply of power. Much to look forward to as the years of development progress.
However, we have much to do now to save our planet and many say that if it isn’t already too late, we are at a critical stage where we cannot delay drastic action to reverse everything that the industrial revolution and everything since has brought.
This brings to mind my conversation many years ago with a consultant who was advising my firm at the time on achieving LEXCEL accreditation, for which I had responsibility. After an in-depth discussion, I was presented with a pair of Hippo bags. My initial surprise at this unexpected and rather out of context I thought gift, was soon explained. A toilet cistern displacement device to save water! Of course, the aspiration to achieve law firm excellence, went far beyond the requirements of the formal Law Society accreditation.
Since this experience, long before it became fashionable to blazen ones corporate and social responsibility and green credentials on one’s website, I have realised we have a significant contribution to make to the environment in our practice as lawyers and through the running of our businesses. I have no doubt that the impact of printing emails alone would have saved a considerable deforestation when applied on a worldwide scale. This one thing has in practical terms frustrated many a Costs Lawyer who has had to forensically examine multiple copies of the same email to ensure a routine communication has not been missed in costing a solicitor’s file of papers.
But other than the obvious and growing operation of the paperless office, what should we do? I am not suggesting we should all rush out and buy electric cars, although this would be a start. Many firms I know are operating a car-share scheme to avoid every employee driving to the office, as well as offering the Cycle to Work Scheme, providing great discounts on staff purchasing a bike and accessories, while benefiting themselves in reduced NIC contributions.
Agile working can reduce overhead costs as well as limiting energy consumption and obviously office space, where an employee can work from home using power in their home that might be consumed in any event, namely for heating and lighting.
There is of course power saving options with automatic lighting, properly thermostatically controlled heating and even going the whole way with biomass energy, solar panels and wind turbines, especially if a firm owns its own building and adjacent land.
The list and possibilities are endless and this is not an article which sets out to provide this. I merely think it is good to highlight, as many have done in a far more direct and vocal way recently in the news, that we should remember that in doing our day jobs, there are often simple things we can do which will help the environment, as well as quite possible reducing our overheads. Engage staff and make it part of your true corporate responsibility.
And if you are wondering, I managed to master the Hippo bag and all of our office toilets were suitably displaced!
This article was written by Richard Allen who brings more than 30 years of unique commercial experience to Burcher Jennings. He was one of the first professionals to achieve Costs Lawyer status and is one of a select group of Costs Lawyers to have made partner in a solicitor’s practice.