The Case for CSR: Making a Difference

April 30, 2019 Jen Frost

Last year, One North went through the process of becoming ISO 27001 certified. Any organization who has undertaken this effort knows that it is a major commitment. However, once completed, it has many beneficial outcomes. Obviously, it is the right thing to do, particularly if your work involves clients and their data. It helps you put procedures in place to foresee vulnerabilities and guard against those. But there is also an aspect of ISO certification that, quite frankly, just looks good. When we are responding to RFPs or as we work on client portals and data integrations, it is a selling point that we have invested in security.

This same reality is true for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs. Once upon a time, there was a notion that these programs were a soft investment for professional services organizations to tout on their website. However, based on what I learned at the 2019 LMA Annual Conference in the Social Responsibility and Sustainability Programs — and Why Law Firms Should Care session (presented by Pamela Cone, Gayatri Joshi and Mona Sheth), CSR, like security, makes good business sense. Clients have increased pressure on them, both from the marketplace and from shareholders, to implement measurable actions aimed at driving CSR program success.

If, like me, you are wondering what is involved in CSR, I’d suggest you take a look at the United Nations #Envision2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Today, many firms also face CSR-specific requirements as part of RFPs. In fact, just like ISO audits, there are CSR audits that some clients will conduct. As Pam Cone suggested, the days of “fudging” your answers to CSR questions are over. Clients are now looking for cold hard facts, and they aren’t afraid to ask for measurable third-party observations.

I was amazed by all that Nixon Peabody is doing to champion green and environmental efforts in its communities and also at its office buildings. Its Legally Green program positions the firm as a true innovator, thought leader and proactive partner to its clients. I could tell several marketers, myself included, were overwhelmed by how sophisticated Nixon Peabody’s initiatives were. Gayatri Joshi suggested getting involved with the Law Firm Sustainability Network and looking at larger trends as starting points. For example:

  • UN Global Goals
  • Supply Chain Assessment
  • Consumption Reduction
  • Green Building Design
  • Sustainability Management
  • Carbon Accounting and Climate Projects
  • Wellness & Air Quality

Many firms have started by using LFSN’s American Legal Industry Sustainability Standard (ALISS), a web-based tool designed to help law offices assess and improve their sustainability programs. Once your firm has developed a plan and vision/mission statement, you can also follow in the footsteps of Nixon Peabody and create a “minisite” within your website to outline your commitments. Not only will it keep your team accountable, but it will also help communicate to the market that you are serious about CSR. Some good advice from Pam was to focus first on gaining momentum with the lawyers, administrators or other firm members who are passionate about CSR. Your group’s enthusiasm and success will generate interest from others. 

The session was really inspiring and informative … and certainly made me start thinking about how businesses can have a positive impact on the world around us.

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Jen Frost Managing Director, Marketing

Jen Frost is Managing Director of Marketing at One North. She works closely with the Digital Strategy, Experience Design and Technology teams to develop and enhance One North client communication and exterior messaging strategy. In addition, she provides general marketing direction for One North and promotes internal culture.

  • Favorite season: Fall is my favorite season. Probably because I used to live in Massachusetts, and it is just beautiful there in the Autumn.
  • Favorite Chicago spot: The Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool hidden in the middle of Lincoln Park.

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