Embracing Sustainability

The best-known definition of sustainability is contained in a 1987 report, Our Common Future, commissioned by the UN World Commission of Environment and Development:

"Sustainable development is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

We recognize that all human activity, including the operation of a law office, has an impact on the environment and the natural world. Within the Firm, we make daily choices in performing work that can either reduce or increase that impact. As a Firm, we seek to reduce such impact by implementing the following practices and programs ("Policy").

Education. Because the daily actions of each person in the Firm will contribute to the success of this Policy, this Policy includes a provision for education of all new lawyers and staff on sustainability matters. In the long run, the initiative of each individual will be the key to the success of the Policy.

Sustainability Coordinators. One person in each office of the Firm shall be designated as the Sustainability Coordinator for that office. The time allocated for work as Coordinator shall be determined by the Managing Member. The Sustainability Coordinators shall be members of the Sustainability Team, be responsible for training all employees in their respective offices on an understanding of sustainability, and keep awareness of this Policy at a high level in their respective offices.

Sustainability Team. The Sustainability Team will meet on a regular basis to evaluate current practices, examine additional practices or changes that may further the implementation of this Policy, make recommendations to the Policy Committee on adoption of such practices, determine priorities in carrying out this Policy, and educate and motivate lawyers and staff to move toward sustainable practices. Anyone with ideas for improving the Firm's performance is encouraged to contact their Sustainability Coordinator or any member of the Sustainability Team. The Sustainability Team will make periodic reports to the Firm management regarding the progress the Firm is making toward sustainability.

Areas to be examined by the Sustainability Team include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Purchasing. Recommendations on sustainability criteria the Firm should consider in the purchase of supplies, equipment, and services. Examples of sustainability criteria are recyclability, biodegradability, recycled content, waste minimization, hazardous-chemical free, energy conservation, resource conservation, locally manufactured, and organic.
  • Waste Reduction and Recycling. Subject to security and other requirements, practices shall be considered that minimize the use of paper in data storage, printing and copying, internal and external communications, and mailing. Practices should be examined to minimize disposables and packaging, reuse equipment and supplies where feasible, and maximize recycling of all items that can be recycled in this region.
  • Energy. Practices shall be considered that encourage energy conservation and efficiency in heating/cooling, lighting, and equipment. This may involve negotiations with the building managers to seek best practices.
  • Travel. The Sustainability Team shall consider means for reducing business travel, including teleconferencing options, and strategies for reducing the impact of travel, including fuel efficiency, car-pooling, and mass transit.
  • Commuting. Incentives and other actions will be considered to encourage use of mass transit, carpooling, and bikes.
  • Carbon Credits/Green Power. The Sustainability Team will consult with the building managers to examine the feasibility of purchasing carbon credits to offset all or a portion of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with our operations and the possible purchase of green power to encourage alternatives to fossil fuels.
  • Tenant Improvements. When tenant improvements are made, the Sustainability Coordinator of the applicable office shall review and encourage the use of materials that are the least hazardous and most natural and give preference to those that are high in recycled content, recyclable or biodegradable, certified sustainable, and durable.

Implementation and Measuring Success. In implementing this Policy, Firm personnel shall consider recommendations from the Sustainability Team and the Sustainability Coordinators, who are charged with researching best practices for law office operations. Where practicable, baselines shall be established for practices that can be measured--such as paper used, recycled content of supplies, disposables purchased, percentage of office waste that is recycled, and electricity used--and progress shall be reported to the Firm at least annually.

Based on recommendations from the Sustainability Team, all three offices of Miller & Martin have enrolled in the ABA-EPA Law Office Climate Challenge.

Miller & Martin is a member of the Law Firm Sustainability Network.  The Law Firm Sustainability Network's aim is to provide a platform for those who are actively involved in their respective law firm's sustainability program to share best practices, experiences and network.