12 Oct 2022

Sustainability for legal professionals and why B Corp is a useful framework

By Olivia Hill

As sustainability urgency escalates, the legal and regulatory areas that law firms manage means they play an increasingly important role in the global transition to a low carbon economy.

Not only must legal professionals have deep knowledge of sustainability to deliver a high quality service to their clients, but their business must also reflect a strong ESG strategy, as scrutiny of their company’s sustainability efforts increases.

As a sustainability advisory, Seismic regularly supports law firms and legal departments to ensure their ESG strategy is watertight. We find that B Corp provides an ideal framework to achieve this for the legal industry, and share here the story of Ignition law, a firm on the journey to B Corp certification. Find out more here about the importance of these frameworks for all businesses through their B Corp journey.

How can lawyers support transformational change for their clients?

A law firm’s focus on compliance and risk management involves them in a broad range of challenges that connect to ESG. Law departments are most focused on sustainability work related to litigation, regulatory compliance and transaction due diligence, often resulting from pressures from investors and regulators.

Lawyers are in a position to drive transformational change within a business because they are heavily involved in structuring the frameworks and contracts that support the transition to a low carbon economy. Sustainability issues increasingly create legal, regulatory and reputational risk for businesses, so law departments must play a key role.

Getting your house in order: ESG strategy for legal professionals

Not only do law firms need an awareness of sustainability to better support their clients, but they also need to reflect strong sustainability credentials in their own business. 87% of law firms now receive requests for proposals (RFPs) asking for sustainability information. (Source: Law Firm Sustainability Network survey).

But it’s not just a response to client asks, sustainability is also better for business! 88% of research shows solid ESG practices result in better operational performance. (Oxford University and Arabesque Partners 2020). 70% of employees now demand purposeful work and these purpose-driven employees are 6.5 times more likely to report higher resilience and 6 times more likely to stay at the company (McKinsey 2021).

“ESG Strategy is becoming increasingly essential for law firms that are being asked about their sustainability credentials by clients. We advocate B Corp as a fantastic framework for ESG strategy, and crucially our clients have found that B Corp is better for business!” Paul Lewis, Cofounder and CEO of Seismic.

How are law departments responding to the call for sustainability literacy?

A 2022 General Counsel Sustainability Study recently interviewed 1,000 law departments on how they are responding to the rising importance of sustainability issues.

  • 61% of General Counsel reporting they expect to increase collaboration with the business on sustainability.
  • 90% of law departments report challenges in creating policies where there are no specific regulations connected to environmental issues.
  • Similarly, 92% of law departments have difficulty creating policies on social issues when there are no specific regulations to follow.
  • 96% of General Counsel report that the law department does not have the expertise needed in sustainability, environmental and social topics.

Sustainability literacy and up-to-date knowledge on the fast changing regulation and governance that exists around sustainability is essential for successful legal services.

IGNITION LAW: A law firm with a commitment to positive change

Ignition office sign

From working with social enterprise clients to helping and contributing to the community, Ignition Law are a law firm dedicated to improving the lives of others. They wanted to communicate this effectively to access a new network of ‘like-minded’ clients. As Seismic’s law firm, Ignition Law were aware of the B Corp movement. With their growing interest in enhancing their ongoing corporate social responsibility efforts, they decided to assess the feasibility of becoming certified themselves.

B Corp is a certification that proves your company meets the highest standards of social and environmental performance. It’s also a framework for ESG strategy and a tool for continuous improvement. There are more than 5,800 B Corps globally across 158 industries. Of the 900 B Corps in the UK two thirds are B2B companies.

As Seismic’s law firm, Ignition were aware of B Corp. They looked to Seismic for expert help reviewing their B Impact Assessment – the online framework behind B Corp certification – to gain a higher degree of confidence in their answers and estimated score. On confirmation that they were coming from a solid base of good business practices, Ignition Law looked for support prioritising the changes and improvements they needed to make.

Two key benefits of Ignition Law’s B Corp journey so far have been improved client relationships and talent engagement and retention.

The improvement plan focussed the leadership team on the nature of their client businesses, and they discovered that at least 40 of Ignition’s clients were themselves purpose-driven. Clients have responded really positively to the news of Ignition’s intention to certify as a B Corp.

“In the course of working with Seismic to explore B Corp Certification we have started to explore a fantastic network, made up of decent like-minded people at various stages of their own B Corp journey, with whom we have formed new working relationships and some of whom have become clients in their own right.” Helen Lucas – Partner, sustainability lead

Read more about Ignition Law’s B Corp journey here.

B Corp for Professional Services - Why advisory businesses are prioritising sustainability

Why law firms are are prioritising sustainability

Professional services businesses, like law firms, benefit hugely from a strong social and environmental agenda. Getting your sustainability strategy right has become a top business priority for successful leaders. Improving your client network, valuing the wellbeing of employees and helping attract and retain talent are just some of the benefits. Read our report on why advisory businesses are leading the shift and how B Corp can help.

Download the report


Partner with Seismic to accelerate your sustainability strategy

Seismic exists to help change society for the better and fix our planet. We are an international team of sustainability experts on a mission to help businesses prosper by becoming increasingly impactful and influential forces for good. We use the B Corp framework to help professional services businesses improve their impact. We are B Corp Advisors, Net Zero Experts and Sustainability Strategists. We are your partner for change.