Lucy Greenwood started the Green Pledge to push change

“We wanted to make it easy for people who want to make changes”, says Lucy Greenwood who founded the Campaign for Greener Arbitration in 2019. An initiative that is still highly relevant and also very active.

The business community across the world aims to reduce the environmental impact and increase the contribution to a sustainable future. This is a priority for the arbitration users and consequently for all arbitration institutes.

As a predecessor in the arbitration community Lucy Greenwood founded the Campaign for Greener Arbitration in 2019. An ambitious approach and relentless work has resulted in six protocols and an overarching framework – the Green Pledge. The main message of the campaign is to adopt clean energy, fly less and eliminate hard copy bundles.

Please tell us about your thoughts and driving forces when founding the campaign.

For quite a few years, I had been struck by the extensive discussions taking place in the arbitration community regarding how we could arbitrate climate change disputes but the absence of any discussion about our role in addressing climate change itself, however the environmental impact of an arbitration was really brought home to me in 2018 when I was chairing a major arbitration. At the end of the two-week hearing I looked at the wall of printed binders of documents behind me and realised that not a single binder had been opened during the hearing. This led me to reflect on the way in which we were running arbitrations. I thought back to my first arbitration in 1998 and concluded that there had been very little evolution in the intervening period. Essentially, we were still running arbitrations in a very old-fashioned way.

Shortly afterwards I was asked to speak on a panel on technology in arbitration. I concluded that all the technology that we needed to run arbitrations more efficiently and in a way that was better for the environment was readily available to us. However, as far as I could tell we were not using the technology for either purpose. At that point I launched what I called my "green pledge" which was a promise that I would try to run my arbitrations in an environmentally friendly way and encourage those appearing before me to do so as well. I focused on eliminating hard copy bundles and reducing travel, by encouraging counsel to consider whether witnesses could give evidence on video in certain circumstances.

The Green Pledge caught the attention of the wider arbitration community and fairly shortly after its launch, hundreds of individuals and organisations had signed up to its principles. We now have almost 1,000 signatories, which seems extraordinary when I think back to how it all began. I then realised that while the Green Pledge worked for arbitrators like me, the arbitration community was keen to get behind a broader campaign to address this issue. I brought together representatives of key stakeholders in international arbitrations to spearhead the Campaign for Greener Arbitrations. We now have an active, dedicated and committed Steering Committee comprising individuals from arbitration institutions, arbitrators, law firms, hearing venues, third party funders, conference organisers, legal technology providers and corporate clients. We also have regional committees covering North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, India, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. 

What is the message of the Green Pledge?

The value of the Green Pledge is that it provides a starting point for a grown up conversation about climate change and how everyone needs to change their behaviors to address it. Of all the things the Campaign has achieved, I am most proud of our Green Protocols, which are essentially a detailed guide to the changes that everyone can and should make to their practices. These were compiled over a six month period during 2020 and we held a number of virtual round tables with key stakeholders to get detailed feedback. There are six protocols and an overarching framework. The protocols are:

We wanted to make it easy for people who want to make changes and, frankly, all they need to do is to consult the relevant protocol!

At its most basic level, the Campaign has three simple messages: adopt clean energy, fly less and eliminate hard copy bundles. In relation to the second and third messages, clearly technology plays a key role. However, there is a lack of awareness of the significant carbon footprint that digital communications may have, so the Campaign is working on producing information as to the steps individuals can take to reduce their digital carbon footprint as well. 

And what climate actions can you see in the arbitration community?

In 2019 I was really concerned that as a community we were focused on how we could arbitrate climate change disputes and we were not talking about our role in addressing climate change. I think that has changed. People are much more open about the need to take personal responsibility for how we run our arbitration practices and the importance of doing so in an environmentally friendly way. 

The changes in behaviour caused by the pandemic have been significant and I think we have all been surprised at how we adapted to the pandemic and how we pivoted, pretty seamlessly, to remote hearings and online events. I want to ensure that as we move into the next phase, post-pandemic, that we don’t revert back to our old, wasteful ways.

The effects of climate change is causing a new range of disputes and challenges for business around the world. How would you define a climate related dispute?

Climate change disputes are already here in the investor-state dispute resolution sphere and are increasingly being seen in the commercial arbitration world. The ICC task force on Climate Change identified three potential categories of commercial arbitration disputes. First, the task force concluded that climate change-related commercial arbitration could arise in relation to contracts relating to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and energy transition, and envisaged disputes over renewable energy facilities, decommissioning of power plants and the adaptation of infrastructure. Certainly, in relation to my energy practice, I am starting to see a significant number of disputes in the renewables field that I simply wasn’t seeing even five years ago. Second, the task force identified that contracts without specific climate-related objectives could also generate disputes involving climate or environmental issues by being impacted by policy changes in response to climate change. Third, the task force envisaged the possibility of ‘submission agreements’ to arbitrate climate related issues where no agreement to arbitrate existed.

I broadly agree with the three categories identified by the task force as where we are likely to see climate disputes in commercial arbitration, however I would say that approaching climate change in a compartmentalized way means there is a risk that we are silo-ing climate change issues in a way that may not be helpful. I think the better approach is to view everything through an environmental impact lens and acknowledge that in the future climate change can and will appear in every type of dispute imaginable. Every arbitration practitioner should have a core competency and understanding of climate change issues so that we are properly equipped to deal with the climate change disputes that are coming down the tracks at us. To complement this, I think arbitrators should be able to show that they have a level of technological competency to run arbitrations on a more streamlined, environmentally friendly basis. Research conducted by the Campaign also shows that running an arbitration on a “greener” basis leads to a significant reduction in costs, which I see as a key driver as we emerge from the pandemic. 

Learn more about the SCC Sustainability Commitment >> here

 

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