The Lord Mayor of the City of London, Alderman William Russell, made a virtual visit to Bristol and met with Osborne Clarke's international CEO Simon Beswick and Partners Alan John, Tim Simmonds and James Watson to discuss the "avalanche of opportunities" a drive for greater sustainability will bring.

The Lord Mayor acts as a spokesperson for the City of London and a global ambassador for the UK’s financial and professional services sectors. He works to identify new business opportunities and promote the UK as a top global destination for foreign investment. The Lord Mayor is the 692nd person to hold the influential post, which was created in 1189 and is one of the world’s oldest continuously elected civic offices.

The City of London recently announced it has adopted a ground breaking Climate Action Strategy which sets out how it will achieve net zero over the next two decades. As a result, the Lord Mayor was keen to learn about Osborne Clarke's own business sustainability journey in Bristol and how it's helping clients grasp the exciting opportunities decarbonisation presents.

Meeting the sustainability challenge as a law firm

After an introduction from Simon Beswick, Alan John, head of Osborne Clarke's sustainable business group, told the Lord Mayor that sustainability has been fundamentally important to the firm for many years.

"We've had a grassroots environmental sustainability movement at Osborne Clarke for over 20 years. Today environmental sustainability is in our DNA. It's a key part of what our clients and employees expect of us, and of our CSR and wellbeing principles. It complements the services we offer especially around decarbonisation," he said.

Mr John explained how environmental sustainability is embedded into the firm's strategy and with the help of a wide range of building management, resource use and efficiency and travel initiatives, the firm had reduced its carbon foot print by 47% since 2011 despite having doubled its headcount during this time. Several initiatives went beyond carbon reduction, for instance promoting biodiversity by having a beehive and an allotment at its Bristol office.

A new office

Tim Simmonds, a Partner in Osborne Clarke's Funds team, told the Lord Mayor how the firm continues to place sustainability at the heart if its business by gearing up to move its Bristol office to Halo, a landmark green office building in Finzels Reach.

"We're moving to a new building which is set to be one of the most sustainable buildings in the UK. It's going to be BREEAM outstanding (the highest rating in the sustainability assessment method for buildings) and it will be one of the first buildings in Bristol connected to the district heat scheme Bristol City Council are running. We're also spending a lot of time looking at mobility solutions – how we can get to and use the office in an environmentally friendly way. It will be one of the first office buildings designed post-covid so we're spending a lot of time thinking about what the office of the future will look like," he said.

The Lord Mayor praised Osborne Clarke's green objectives and told the group he saw sustainability as a great opportunity for businesses.

“As part of the City of London's Climate Action Strategy, we will be creating 800 green jobs over the next six years. Not only is the sustainability agenda the right thing to do for the planet and future generations to come, it is also a massive opportunity for businesses," he said.

Helping clients

Echoing the Lord Mayor's sentiments around opportunity, Osborne Clarke's Energy and Utilities sector leader and Head of Decarbonisation, James Watson, explained how the firm was helping to support its clients harness these opportunities. In particular he highlighted getting businesses ready to meet their carbon emissions targets in preparation for COP26 and the government's announcement that it wants the UK to achieve net zero by 2050.

"What I'm excited about is how we get our clients ready for the avalanche of opportunity that's going to come from decarbonisation," he said.

With many big name businesses announcing ambitious targets Mr Watson said law and regulation will play an important role in supporting clients sustainability ambitions.

"We're focused on helping clients to tackle the carbon challenge. We're looking at the law, regulation and the policy that needs to come together to deliver net zero by 2050 and how that's applied in a really detailed way. What's happening right now is an irreversible trend. While we've started with a carrot approach - many businesses are putting out their net zero statements and everyone is applauding them - eventually that will turn into a bit more of a stick and there will be more enforcement and regulation. Businesses will be held accountable to deliver. The law and regulation will need to facilitate part of that journey because the UK can't achieve net zero unless businesses make these commitments and actually deliver them in time."

Mr Watson told the Lord Mayor that the firm was already advising many businesses who were looking to get "their houses in order" when it came to lowering carbon emissions.

To find out more about the services Osborne Clarke offers around decarbonisation visit our Transformation page.

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