Freshfields looks to slash air travel in sustainability push

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Magic circle player also vows to reduce paper consumption and ramp up use of renewable electricity

Freshfields has pledged to reduce the number of times its lawyers jet across the world on business as part of a raft of new measures to make the firm more environmentally sustainable.

The magic circle player has set its sights on reducing carbon emissions from business travel by 30% over the next five years, with a particular focus on air travel. Freshies also set the “ambitious” eco-goals of reducing paper usage by 40% and phase out single-use plastics in all of its offices by the end of 2021.

The firm, which chalked-up a B for ‘eco-friendliness’ in our latest Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey, also pledged to purchase 100% renewable electricity by 2030.

Georgia Dawson, Freshfields senior partner, commented:

“Our new environment strategy, with its bold targets and strong focus on the firm’s global carbon footprint, will ensure Freshfields remains a sector leader in integrating environmental objectives within our business. Building on our success in meeting the five-year targets we set in 2016, we are confident that through our new strategy we can achieve a successful and sustainable future for our firm.”

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But Freshies eco-efforts stem beyond just planes and paper. The outfit’s new HQ — 255,000 square feet of a shiny new skyscraper at 100 Bishopsgate — is understood to feature sustainable furniture made of recyclable plastics.

It isn’t the first firm to up its green endeavours, with Herbert Smith Freehills recently announcing its aim of reducing carbon emissions to net-zero by 2030. CMS, meanwhile, has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2025 as part of its Climate Action and Sustainability programme.

Even future lawyers are upping their eco efforts. Last year Legal Cheek reported that the University of Nottingham Law Society hoped to become the UK’s first carbon negative law soc by ditching, among other things, law firm brochures and paper tickets.

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Bollocks virtue-signalling. They cannot represent major oil and mining interests and try to hold themselves as caring about the environmental impact of their business. Now, if they were to audit clients by reference to their environmental impact maybe I’d not be so cynical.


Old Guy

Oil and mining companies exist because of demand. We need to move away from blaming big oil for everything, and take some accountability for our lifestyles that drives the demand that these companies satisfy. I’m sure you posted your message using a computer or a smartphone, which is full of things that have been extracted from the ground, and has plastic which I’m sure you can google how is made. We should move toward sustainability and that means bringing all of society with it, but lets stop trying to demonise certain industries which give us a lifestyle that many around the world can only dream of. And please don’t tell me you plant trees or pay money to offset your carbon footprint so you’re all good.

Freshfields should be encouraged, and they have probably realised, as we all have, that video conference meetings can significantly reduce the number of trips you need to take to see someone.


Eye roll

More like forced wokeness due to partner indiscretions. Disingenuous and tedious.



I agree with 11:09 that if they are really serious then there is much more they can do. We will see lots of firms target less travel because Covid has shown there is a good cost saving to be made here that will go straight into partners wallets. My applause will be held until we see more meaningful action


Frank Field

I agree this change and announcement is clearly in part for good PR. I also agree that if the firm truly felt strongly about climate change it would stop representing oil/gas/mining clients.

However, this change is a positive change and can make a small positive difference. If all firms make these changes, even for selfish reasons, should we really care what their motivation is?

It seems like firms/companies who make these changes receive more criticism (for being hypocrites) than firms/companies who do nothing to improve the situation. I do not think that is right.

I think we should recognise when firms/companies have made a positive step, whilst still highlighting the aspects of their businesses that require further attention.

Ultimately, there will always be bad actors willing to represent oil/gas/mining so the most amount of pressure should be applied to those companies directly and to governments.

For additional balance and to fend off accusations of being Freshfields HR – I have found almost every Freshfields lawyer I have encountered to be pretty insufferable.


The first thing we do, let's cancel all the lawyers (we don't like)

Why are people who represent legitimate businesses, many of which have provided the resources that society has needed for the last 150 years, bad actors?

Is your eco-fascism so strong you would actually relegate lawyers who provide their services to certain companies to the ‘bad actors’ bin?



Small changes mean nothing when a business is at the centre of the machine that drives the most damaging commercial activities on earth….



Let me translate this for you from Equity Partner/PR-speak:

“We’ll reduce our firm’s overheads even further by hotboxing you poor wagecucks going WFH in our poxy 1 bedroom apartment and won’t let you enjoy the little pleasures of working for BigLaw like Biz class travel, so our PEP rises and we get to earn even phatter stacks.”




Reminds me of McDonalds et al. removing plastic from their products to “help the environment” while still operating highly damaging supply chains and being unsustainable in their nature. Or apple removing cables and plugs from their products and charging the consumer separately for them.

It’s a strange coincidence that companies always seem most willing to take environmental measures that inconvenience workers or consumers but save the company money.


Tolstoy’s bassoon

Yep, precisely so. Freshfields or any other BigLaw firm doesn’t give a rat’s about the environment, but loves to shave costs and pump the profits up. Combining it with a bit of virtue signalling crap is a double-win for them.



Cue the same old misinterpretation of what a lawyer’s job is. Do you really think lawyers can sit there and say to tobacco / oil companies: “please stop making cigarettes” / “please stop drilling”? No. The job is to advise clients within the legal parameters which are not set by law firms. Disagree with the societal impact all you like, these companies are still entitled to correct application of the law in a dispute or to a well drafted contract. If you have an issue with what is legally allowed and the supply/demand/societal implications then good for you, but it’s really not the legal professional’s job to stick in their 2 pence on business models. What law firms can do is address their own business model, hence, this.



“Just following instructions” is not a defence. They can choose who to represent. Apartheid was ended by going for the banks and service providers that proper up the regime. Environmental carnage is worse than apartheid and we should follow that successful model.



Who is we? Personally I’m not a bully or a fascist so I don’t support going around pressuring businesses or the state into destroying other businesses just because cult leader Thunberg says I should.

I mean if the banks are on your side you must be the good guys, right?


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