Climate change

Q&A with Greener Litigation: environmentally sustainable litigation

Climate change is the greatest perceivable threat facing humanity. Greener Litigation explains more about its Pledge and how the legal profession can work towards environmentally sustainable litigation.

What is the Greener Litigation Pledge and who is it for?

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In June 2019, the UK became the first country to commit in law to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The Greener Litigation Pledge is a commitment to reducing the environmental impact of dispute resolution in England and Wales.

This is in line with the objective of restricting global warming to 1.5°C as identified by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The Pledge looks to act as a catalyst for change to policy and procedure. It aims to embed meaningful and permanent change into the rules of litigation practice to reduce its environmental impacts.

The Pledge is for all organisations involved in dispute resolution in England and Wales, including:

  • solicitors firms
  • barristers chambers
  • firms of experts, and
  • litigation service providers such as e-discovery services, translation and transcription agencies

Who set up the Pledge and who has signed it so far?

Inspired by the Campaign for Greener Arbitrations, Mishcon de Reya initiated the process of creating a steering committee of like-minded leading litigation practices to develop the Greener Litigation Pledge.

The founding signatories of the Greener Litigation Pledge were:

  • Mishcon de Reya
  • Simmons & Simmons LLP
  • Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP
  • HFW
  • 3 Hare Court
  • Opus 2
  • Fountain Court Chambers
  • Addleshaw Goddard
  • Kennedys, and
  • Herbert Smith Freehills

Since the Pledge was launched, many more organisations have joined.

See the full list of signatories

The Pledge does not impose targets or mandatory standards of conduct.

The steering committee recognises that different organisations are at different stages of the transition towards net zero, and that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is therefore not appropriate.

Rather, a particular mindset is encouraged, with sustainability at its heart.

What are the objectives of the Greener Litigation Pledge?

The Greener Litigation Pledge recognises the importance of restricting global warming to 1.5oC, as identified by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Signatories of the Pledge share an aspiration to reach the position where the most environmentally sustainable options in litigation become the default.

In signing the Pledge, organisations commit to take active steps to reduce:

  • the environmental impact of their practices in England and Wales (with a view to minimising)
  • emissions in line with the objective of restricting global warming to 1.5oC

All individuals and organisations involved in dispute resolution may sign up to the Pledge and commit to becoming more environmentally sustainable.

The Pledge gives tangible aims and practical behaviours that can be implemented to reduce the environmental impacts of conducting litigation, including:

  • corresponding electronically, unless hard copies are expressly required
  • limiting the printing of hard copy bundles and other documents
  • finding more environmentally friendly forms of transport where feasible
  • considering the appropriateness of witnesses giving evidence by video-link
  • considering for each hearing whether it’s appropriate and amenable to being heard remotely, and
  • using suppliers and service providers who are similarly committed to reducing their carbon footprint

Ultimately, we hope to promote lasting change in litigation practice both within England and Wales, and around the world.

What future work does the Greener Litigation Pledge have planned?

At this stage, the Greener Litigation Project is encouraging more organisations to sign the Pledge.

Find out how to become a signatory

Signatories are in turn encouraged to engage with others involved in dispute resolution (including suppliers), to improve their environmental impacts and the environmental impacts of litigation they’re working on.

Members of the steering committee on the Greener Litigation Project are currently sharing ideas on how to progress the objectives of the Pledge, such as by providing practical guidance for lawyers engaged in litigation.

Beyond England and Wales

The Greener Litigation Pledge is currently focused on England and Wales.

However, since its launch, members of the steering committee have been engaging with lawyers and dispute resolution practitioners in other countries, who want to open chapters of the Pledge in their jurisdictions.

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