2019 Global Citizenship Review
Man walking on a hill

Our Green Initiative

We take our responsibility to manage our environmental footprint seriously

We conducted our third greenhouse gas emissions assessment and introduced an Environmental Management System to track and promote our sustainability practices

We take our responsibility to manage our environmental footprint seriously, and it is gratifying to see how our people in so many teams have delivered significant improvement through smart office management practices, investment in energy efficiency and sustainable technology solutions.

Jo Giessler Weiss, Head of Global Citizenship

From 2012 through 2018, our reported greenhouse gas emissions from operations per full-time employee equivalent have decreased 36 percent, with annual total estimated emissions falling approximately 30 percent. We worked with the UK consultancy Greenstone to conduct our 2018 emissions assessment, our third such assessment, which analyzed energy, paper, waste, travel and hotel data using the GHG Protocol, the most widely used basis for measuring greenhouse gas emissions.

During the same time, both the number of our offices and the number of our people have increased, and the measurement of our greenhouse gas footprint has become more comprehensive.

Our two largest sources of emissions continue to be air travel and electricity, at 44 percent of total emissions each. According to an analysis of sites where comparable data are available, we have reduced our electricity consumption in those sites by approximately 37 percent since 2012. We have also benefited from greener power grids in many of the locations where we have offices.

“We take our responsibility to manage our environmental footprint seriously, and it is gratifying to see how our people in so many business services teams have delivered improvement through smart office management practices, investment in energy efficiency and sustainable technology solutions,” said Jo Giessler Weiss, Head of Global Citizenship. “In addition, the 30-plus members of our Environmental Sustainability Committee have worked hard this past year to bring us to a new level of quality and comprehensiveness.”

The Committee’s efforts included helping to design and pilot our first firmwide Environmental Management System (EMS). Based on the Law Firm Sustainability Network’s American Legal Industry Sustainability Standard (ALISS), the EMS establishes a set of 60 core practices relevant to firms such as ours, designed to ensure our environmental footprint is minimized as fully as possible. It enumerates office-specific practices related to travel, energy and refrigerants, water, procurement, events, employee engagement and a range of sustainable practices relating to paper, plastics, waste and catering.

The EMS was refined through a pilot by our office managers in Frankfurt, Helsinki, Madrid, Melbourne, Moscow, Silicon Valley and Singapore. It was introduced to all of our offices in the second half of 2019. Our offices complete the survey, which is posted in a user‑friendly format on our intranet, and receive a Gold, Silver or Bronze score based on the percentage of practices implemented. The survey can be updated at any time, but it must be completed at least annually.

“Being a pilot office for the EMS was helpful to identify areas for improvement and to implement relevant and impactful environmental changes in our office,” said Kirsty Dollery, Office Operations Manager in Melbourne. “These changes help us improve our performance, minimize our footprint and become a better environmental corporate citizen. As businesses and governments become more environmentally focused, our legal teams are often asking for assistance to identify what we are doing as a Firm regarding environmental sustainability. Our Environmental Sustainability Report and the EMS survey results allow us to respond comprehensively and efficiently to these inquiries.”

The EMS also incorporates global office sustainable design guidelines for all new leases and renovations. “When planning an office move, we strive to relocate to a building in the central business district near public transit, and preferably one with a green certification such as LEED or BREAM,” said Alena Klompus, Office Design and Real Estate Specialist who also serves on the Environmental Sustainability Committee. “In designing our new space, we seek LEED certifications when feasible, and are sure to incorporate sustainable features into the space, such as LED bulbs, low-flow faucets and Energy Star appliances.”

Click here for more more detail on our emissions assessments and EMS, please view our Environmental Sustainability Report


The introduction of our new Environmental Management System builds on recent progress around plastics, renewable energy and energy efficiency

As part of an internal campaign to highlight the environmental impact of plastics to all of our people, 42 of our 44 offices have eliminated or significantly reduced single-use plastics in the past two years.

Global Guest Experience Specialist Hermann Schurig played a key role in the widespread elimination of plastic products. “It has been incredibly inspiring to see how fully the office teams around the world embraced our recommendations to reduce significantly the use of plastic and paper,” said Hermann. “This has improved our client experience as well as our environmental performance. Their enthusiastic efforts motivate me to continue to drive our sustainability practices.” 

Lighting is also an important component of energy efficiency. Eighty percent of offices completing the EMS survey reported that LED lighting had been installed, covering an average of 77 percent of fixtures.

We are also focused on increasing the percentage of our electricity needs provided by renewable energy sources. For several years, 100 percent of the electricity used at our data centers in the Americas, EMEA and Asia-Pacific has come from renewable energy sources. Our offices in London, Stockholm and Washington, DC also purchase certified renewable energy directly or through our landlord.

Our offices in Germany contracted directly for renewable electricity sources as of January 2020. “I looked into the cost of purchasing renewable energy and found it to be negligible,” said Jana Weidig, Head of Operations in Germany. “It was heartening to see the full and immediate support from all the German Office Executive Partners when I suggested changing over to renewable energy.” 

We also participate in the German rail company Deutsche Bahn’s corporate partner certification program and Lufthansa’s “Partner Plus Progress” program. Through these programs, approximately 98 percent of our rail travel is now on electric trains powered by renewable energy, and all Lufthansa flights booked through our German offices are offset, representing approximately 80 percent of all flights booked through those offices.

Americas Director of Facilities & Office Services Raymond Pezzuti, Senior Manager of Office Services Robert Roma and Facilities Supervisor Edwin Bruno worked with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) during the design and build-out of our new office space in New York City. Their collaboration resulted in an estimated annual energy cost saving of US$390,000 driven by a 39 percent reduction in energy consumption and was recognized by NYSERDA with its Commercial Tenant Program award.


Our annual Green Campaign, established in 2013, informs our people about important environmental issues, steps White & Case is taking and individual actions that add up

“Our people have shown great support for our environmental sustainability efforts, which is critical to our success,” said Elizabeth Black, Senior Manager of Global Citizenship who manages the annual Global Green Campaign, which takes place each June to coincide with the United Nations World Oceans Week. “Participation in our annual Green Campaign provides one way to measure support.” Across our global network, more than 2,000 people have taken a personal pledge to adopt one or more environmentally friendly behaviors in past years, while hundreds each year have participated in various contests and trivia quizzes to build awareness.

Offices are asked to organize volunteer projects during each Green Campaign. For example, in Hong Kong, Manila, Singapore, Shanghai and Tampa, our people regularly take part in beach or bayou clean-ups, while bottle cap collection is a favorite activity in Shanghai and Tokyo. Panel discussions and film screenings were held in Houston, London, New York, Tokyo and Washington, DC in 2019. Our people in Nur-Sultan raised money for environmental pro bono clients.

In Beijing, volunteers have planted more than 550 pine trees since 2009, while our Manila office has planted more than 150 seedlings since 2017. This work is in addition to the nearly 5,000 trees planted in Ghana, Malawi and Rwanda as part of our Global Green Campaign and a program in our London office.

Many offices have also distributed reusable cutlery, straws, cups and mugs as they have reduced single-use plastics and paper products in pantries. Our Madrid office has a “Green Leader” role that rotates every two weeks to share the responsibility and build ownership for promoting green practices. More than half of our offices completing the EMS survey report including information in their new employee induction process about our sustainability practices and what each individual can do.

“Ultimately, we can’t deliver fully on our goals without our people thinking about what they do personally each day,” said Elizabeth. “I am inspired by the stories I hear about how they are incorporating actions they learned about in a Green Campaign in their daily lives at work and at home. In a law firm, lots of small individual actions can make a big impact.”


London sets the standard

The ISO 14001 accreditation has helped us embed a culture of environmental sustainability into our day-to-day operations, forced us to become aware of everything from energy usage to waste and ensured we have measures in place to minimize these impacts.

Giuseppe Cocca, Facilities Specialist

Since achieving ISO 14001 accreditation in 2014, London office Head of Operations Alasdair MacRitchie and Facilities Specialist Giuseppe Cocca have introduced ever more sophisticated practices.


Green initiative stats


Replacing all plastic cups and cutlery from tea points with metal cutlery and glasses in 2015 has saved 26,000 pieces of plastic cutlery every year.

Replacing paper cups in tea points with ceramic mugs is saving 250,000 paper cups each year.

Zero waste
We send zero waste to landfills.

50,000 bees
We installed bee hives on the roof of 5 Old Broad Street, which are now home to a colony of more than 50,000 bees.

Supplied with 100% certified renewable energy
Our 5 Old Broad Street location has been supplied with 100 percent certified renewable energy since 2016.

Platinum City of London Clean City Award
In 2019, we were given a Platinum City of London Clean City Award for the third year in a row. Since 2014, we have also been presented with a Gold award three times, plus a special commendation in 2017.

Saved 225,000 plastic bags
Removing waste bins at desks and introducing recycling points in 2014 have saved 225,000 plastic bags through 2019.

Chemical-free cleaning
Our cleaning system converts tap water into a sanitizer 3,000 times more effective than bleach and chlorine-based cleaners.

A total of 3,333 trees planted from 2016 through 2019
We provide weekly fruit baskets in the office from a vendor that plants one fruit tree in Malawi for every basket we buy, which resulted in a total of 3,333 trees planted from 2016 through 2019.

Ethically sourced coffee
We purchase traceable, ethically and sustainably sourced coffee beans from Rwanda from a vendor that donates £3 per case to benefit Rwandan communities.


Image: // Darjeeling, India, 1996
© Steve McCurry / Magnum Photos


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