Meet the sustainability manager helping a global law firm go green


Bird & Bird’s Lauren Nethercleft on her new role as Chief Sustainability Officer and the company’s drive to achieve its net zero ambitions

Lauren Nethercleft, Head of Sustainability at Bird & Bird

Lauren Nethercleft, sustainability manager at Bird & Bird, has her work cut out for her. The company is committed to setting science-based net zero goals to halve emissions by 2030, and it is determined to achieve it.

In recent years, sustainable practices have flourished in the legal industry, with firms creating new roles such as sustainability managers, knowing that not only is strong environmental stewardship the right thing to do, but that is the key to the company’s success. “There is a demand in all areas, to be honest,” explains Nethercleft when asked where this desire for sustainable development comes from, “employees want to work for an organization that shares their values, and customers ask all the time what we’re doing on this front.In recent years, we’ve seen clients ask more questions about sustainability and expect to see meaningful climate commitments from consulting firms. lawyers they work with.

Bird & Bird joined the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) in January 2022. The initiative sets the level of ambition for companies to decarbonize at a rate sufficient to limit global warming to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels, in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. “What we’re doing right now,” she explains, “is bringing together existing pockets of data within the company to give us a global emissions baseline so we can identify the hotspots in our business and our supply chain, and then take action to reduce them. “This measure will allow them to pursue ambitious reduction targets of 50% by 2030 and 90-95% by 2050. [Environmental, Social and Governance] issues, and it’s exciting to see this area of ​​work really take off,” she adds.

Applications for Bird & Bird’s 2023 Spring and Summer Break Programs are open now

Shortly after graduating from law school, Nethercleft realized she wanted to pursue something bigger and was intrigued by corporate social responsibility. “I was really taken with the potential impacts that companies could have in terms of negative environmental and social impacts, as well as the potential that they have to make some really good positive contributions,” she says, adding: “That’s what brought me to the area I am now. Nethercleft’s career in corporate social responsibility has seen her work on social and environmental issues at companies such as Lewis Silkin and Hogan Lovells before joining Bird & Bird this year. His new role is dedicated solely to environmental sustainability and is a strong sign of the company’s commitment to achieving its green goals. “The company created my role to help to realize its commitment to sustainable development”, she explains, “we are at a really important stage of this journey.”

Although he’s only been with the company for two months, Nethercleft has big plans to push the company’s sustainability agenda forward. However, she also wishes to highlight the work that is already underway to achieve these goals. “There is a lot of work going on in our London office to make the building more sustainable,” she says. “We’ve done things like switch to LED lighting and use data and analytics to find opportunities to reduce heating and cooling.” Perhaps the newest of these initiatives is their drive to reduce food waste. “In the London office, the grounds from our coffee machines are recycled to make brownies,” she says. “Which are delicious!”

Throughout the conversation, Nethercleft’s enthusiasm for his work is evident, and that energy seems well placed in Bird & Bird’s innovative culture. “I really enjoy the strategic side of my job,” she says, “it’s really exciting to take ambitious goals like reducing emissions by 90-95% and thinking about how to align them and integrate into what we do as a business.”

What advice would she give to students interested in law and sustainable development? “More and more, we’re finding that sustainability is integral to what it means to be a lawyer,” she says. “In every area of ​​practice, every sector, there will be an environmental impact. So my advice is to be aware that whatever type of act you do, sustainability will be part of it and play an active role in improving skills and driving positive change.

Nethercleft’s commitment to environmental issues began early, when she served as the economic sustainability manager for a student network while in law school. “It’s about being engaged and proactive,” she says, “making sure you can demonstrate your passion through activities like volunteering, reading, or whatever else you find interesting. This always helps with applications further down the line! »

Bird & Bird is known for its focus on innovation and technology and this is clearly part of what attracted Nethercleft to the company. “I love the commitment to sustainability, the passion and commitment is incredible,” she says, “there is so much potential here to make a really meaningful and relevant contribution through our work. I think it’s exciting to be a part of it because the scale and pace of change required is unprecedented, so innovation is absolutely essential.

Lauren Nethercleft will speak at “Pillars of Sustainability – with Bird & Bird”, a virtual student event taking place on Tuesday, October 18. You can apply to attend the event, which is free, now.

Applications for Bird & Bird’s 2023 Spring and Summer Break Programs are open now

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