Law firm making environmental sustainability Exhibit A
BOULDER — Berg Hill Greenleaf Ruscitti is a law firm, not a smoke-belching factory. But the Boulder-based firm has decided that it’s good business to make environmental responsibility a top priority anyway.
A plan to operate sustainably and encourage it in others called “BHGR 2030” has been a project the firm has developed over the past three years.
“We aren’t like those companies with those long supply chains, a suite of vehicles and polluting industrial plants,” said Rudy Verner, an equity partner in BHGR who chairs its sustainability committee, adding that the firm “adopted a sustainability initiative, approved by all of the partners, to help us reduce our environmental footprint and also incentivize reform at the broader policy level on the issue of climate change.”
Besides doing its part to help the planet, Verner said, the firm’s partners have simply decided that the policy is good business since “we believe potential clients and businesses want to partner with organizations that share our values.”
The sustainability committee oversees and manages the firm’s initiatives and management. The panel is led by Verner, David Kerr, Peter Schaub and Geoffrey Williamson, with associate Kevin Falvo, and administered by Ashley Cawthorn, the firm’s director of marketing. That committee directs the firm’s donations of money and time, forms and directs employee incentives, and monitors its in-house compliance with the energy-conservation goals it has set – although, Cawthorn said, “our energy is already covered.”
BHGR in January enrolled its principal Boulder office in Xcel Energy’s Windsource Program to offset its carbon footprint with 100% Colorado wind through retired Renewable Energy Credits. “So we’ve already gone all wind,” Cawthorn said. “We monitor that less now that we’ve made that change.”
Any BHGR 3030 planning efforts go before the sustainability committee, Cawthorn said, and major initiatives that clear that panel would go to a management committee or the entire partnership for a vote.
At the direction of the committee, the firm has taken several in-house steps, including purchasing carbon credits to offset the environmental impact if an attorney has to travel by air, and incentivizing its employees to think about how they commute to and from work every day by providing such amenities as bus passes and showers. The firm aims to have all its offices and operations be carbon neutral by 2030.
“The most important part,” Verner said, “is the partnerships with groups pushing for broader systemic change,” including Protect Our Winters, the Colorado Water Trust, the Law Firm Sustainability Network and Conservation Colorado, on whose board Verner serves.
“Each of them have an arm and a foot in the policy-reform work,” Cawthorn said. Even though the firm itself may not directly participate in lobbying efforts at the legislative level, she said, “we will work to pick up clients who are cognizant of those goals.”
The law firm donates support to those organizations through money and visible backing, Verier said, to aid their “work at the policy level to help address the climate threat.”
Not many law firms have taken such steps, Verner said, but those that have are pooling their resources and ideas. The nonprofit Law Firm Sustainability Network is a nonprofit organization of law firms and legal departments, according to the BHGR website, that “believe by working collaboratively and giving firms essential tools and resources, they can have an even more significant impact on preserving the environment.” The network’s mission is to “develop key performance indicators, foster knowledge-sharing, develop best-practice guidelines, and recognize innovation regarding environmental sustainability in the U.S. legal sector.”
BHGR also has applied for B Corp. status, Verner said, and “compliance with environmental sustainability is one piece of that.”
The only other brick-and-mortar law firm in Colorado to seek B Corp. status so far is Denver-based Moye White in Denver, Cawthorn said. “This isn’t done in this space very often. This is our way of kind of jumping in and making sure we’re paying attention to environmental sustainability,” she said.