We are all increasingly aware of the rapid cross-sectoral and cultural change necessary to avoid the worst impacts of the escalating climate and ecological catastrophe. Lawyers for the Future aims to create a significant cultural and behavioural shift in the legal sector, enabling lawyers to be part of the solution and allow them to stop being part of the problem.
Changing what is acceptable
Our goal is to shift what is considered acceptable in the legal sector. Our focus is firstly on empowering lawyers to bring conversations about climate risk into the boardroom. Lawyers are influential in investment and project decisions, and this should be leveraged to ensure climate risks are raised and a sustainable future is a key consideration in all transactions.
It is not enough simply to raise concerns and risks, however. Lawyers must also remove their support from the most damaging activities.
Divestment is one of the most powerful tools to effect change, and has been gaining traction within the financial sector. For example, the biggest pension fund in the UK, National Employment Savings Trust, has banned investments in companies involved in coal mining, oil from tar sands and arctic drilling from August onwards. In June, the Vatican called for the Catholic Church to divest from fossil fuels and the University of Oxford also announced the withdrawal of its endowment from fossil fuels back in April.
After divesting money, the next step is to divest services.
A Charter of environmental ethics
Lawyers for the Future will encourage individual lawyers and law firms to adhere to a Charter of environmental ethics, pledging to divest their services from environmentally damaging transactions, with an initial focus on fossil fuels. By removing the best legal support from damaging activities whilst encouraging lawyers to support sustainable actions, the social licence and business models surrounding damaging transactions will be undermined.
Launching this Autumn, we invite lawyers and law firms to adopt the Charter and pledge to practice law in a manner that is protective of, not destructive to the planet. Our campaigns will also engage with clients to create a virtuous cycle of change. Finally, we will create a community network guiding lawyers towards best practice and other opportunities for positive action.