Double delight for trio of Bristol law firms as their ESG strategies are recognised at inaugural awards

May 10, 2024

Three Bristol law firms were among the winners in an inaugural awards scheme celebrating the most impactful ESG (environmental, social, and governance) initiatives across the UK legal sector.

Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD), Burges Salmon and Osborne Clarke – all with major offices in the city – won two categories each at the The Legal 500 ESG Awards. 

The awards recognise organisations and individuals for their efforts to bring about change across all aspects of ESG, including diversity and inclusion and environmental and sustainability strategy.

Transatlantic firm WBD’s winners were both based in its Bristol office – planning partner Jon Bower, who won Environmental/Sustainability: Private Practice Champion, and senior responsible business manager Charlotte von Sicard, who was named ESG Rising Star, which recognises individuals in the industry who are contributing across various areas of ESG.

Jon, pictured with Charlotte von Sicard, is partner lead for net zero and the driving force behind environmental change across the business. 

Since taking on this role, WBD – which has more than 120 partners and around 450 lawyers in the UK, where its Bristol office is its second largest, has reduced its measured emissions (scopes 1, 2 and selected scope 3) by more than 50% on the baseline year of 2019/20.

As well as setting the strategy and direction for the firm’s target to achieve net zero by 2030, Jon has advised clients on their own net zero projects for more than 20 years.

Charlotte von Sicard has transformed WBD’s sustainability practices, from the creation of an internal governance structure to improving its EcoVadis Sustainability Rating – putting the firm in the top 2% of companies reporting globally.

WBD partner lead for responsible business Sally Dallow said: “We’re extremely proud to be recognised as a firm leading the way in ESG strategy.

“Womble Bond Dickinson is committed to creating better places to live, work and do business and we’re delighted to be presented with these awards.

“This latest success is testament to the work Charlotte and Jon are doing to build sustainable practices within WBD.

“These awards are the result of a lot of hard work, and I’d like to personally thank them and our teams for the amazing work they do.”

Burges Salmon said its success in the Ethnicity: Best Initiative to Attract and Retain Talent and the Disability/Neurodiversity: Best Initiative to Attract and Retain Talent categories recognised its efforts to “build a genuinely inclusive workplace and create opportunities to make the legal sector more accessible”.

The firm, which employs more than 1,100 people across its offices in Bristol, Edinburgh and London, was praised for its commitment to broaden access to the legal profession and build a pipeline of diverse talent for its early careers offering.

Burges Salmon is involved in establishing the Bristol Future Talent Partnership, offering valuable work experience to students aged 14 to 18 from Black or minority ethnic backgrounds.

The firm has also set up mentoring schemes with the University of Bristol Law School, the University of Bristol, UWE Bristol and IntoUniversity’s Edinburgh and Glasgow campuses.

Burges Salmon’s disability inclusion initiatives, which have involved a significant increase in the number of people at the firm disclosing a disability in the past four years, were also recognised at the awards.

Burges Salmon head of corporate responsibility Roxanne Ratcliff said: “Our dedication to ESG and inclusive employment extends beyond internal initiatives and we’ve adopted a collaborative approach, engaging with organisations across our communities to attract and nurture diverse talent.

“These awards are a testament to the huge progress made and we remain steadfast in our mission to drive positive impact for our people, clients, and communities.”

Osborne Clarke, which employs 800 people in its Bristol office, won the awards for Women in Law : Best Initiative to Improve Female Representation within Senior Ranks, and LGBTQ+  Initiative of the Year.

Central to the first was the firm’s Gender Action Plan, which sets the target of 30% women in partnership by 2025, enabled through various internal processes and policies aiming to improve the gender balance in senior positions.

Last year, half of the firm’s partner promotions were female, with female representation in partnership growing 1% year-on-year since 2020.

Its second award recognised the outstanding work of its LGBTQ+ employee network, OC Pride which last year increased its membership by 15%,, had more than 600 people engage with its pronoun badge initiative and led on various awareness days, both for colleagues and clients.

Osborne Clarke was also shortlisted for Best Initiative Environmental/Sustainability Strategy and DE&I: Law Firm Initiative of the year.

Osborne Clarke partner and international head of decarbonisation and ESG, James Watson, said: “It’s great to see the work of our brilliant diversity networks and responsible business team recognised at such a prestigious event, especially considering how strong the competition was across all categories.

“ESG is not only an integral part of our own firm strategy, but is an area that we’re increasingly advising our clients on too.

“It’s important that we demonstrate own strong ESG credentials and hold ourselves accountable first to be regarded as a trusted advisor in this space.”

Michelmores, which also has offices in Bristol, London, Exeter and Cheltenham, was nominated for the Best Law Firm Advisory Team: Environmental protection award, as well as for Social Mobility: Private Practice Champion of the Year and Social Mobility: Best Initiative to Attract and Retain Talent (outside London).

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