「環境損害相關新聞難免令人沮喪······但是大家必須保持積極的態度」，博仲法律事務所（Winkler Partners）的合夥人譚璧德（Peter J. Dernbach）於1月31日表示。這天，ICLP特別邀請譚璧德律師來講述該事務所為加強環保所採取的各項措施，可是他也承認在環保上所下的工夫偶爾感覺就像「在泰坦尼克上重新排列躺椅」一般。
Among the wealth of resources needed for the battle against climate change, positivity is among the most important. Fortunately, it is renewable.
“It can be very depressing when you look at environmental news ... but you have to maintain a positive attitude,” Peter J. Dernbach of Winkler Partners told ICLP on January 31st while outlining the many steps his firm takes to enhance environmental protection, even if sometimes it feels like arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
To combat this languor, “we all need to start wherever we are” and first identify actionable points. For Dernbach and his colleagues, this means that no aspect of the firm’s operations is too small.
One such initiative came about thanks to waste monitoring. While metal bento boxes and a paperless policy had contributed to a significant reduction, there was still one type of waste that filled the trash cans: disposable cups. In response, the firm bought everyone personalized thermoses, a relatively small expense with an outsized effect.
The building’s roof is also fertile ground for sustainability. Fed by kitchen-scrap compost and collected rainwater, a rooftop garden brings fresh produce back into the kitchen, while the remaining water is diverted to some toilets. Beside the garden is an array of solar panels that contribute about 20% of the firm’s power supply, with any remaining power fed back into the grid.
Back inside, a simple switch to more energy-efficient air conditioners and lights saved more than 50% on energy usage between 2005 and 2018. “It was amazing to me,” Dernbach said. “We were able to reduce that much just by having some of these hardware upgrades.”
“We try not to ignore the impact that those smaller changes have when we look at our day-to-day behaviors and operations,” he said.
However, there are still some emissions that cannot be mitigated by simply swapping appliances. As a foreign-local partnership, airplane travel is a must. While impossible to eliminate, Winkler Partners does try to offset these emissions by donating to environmental causes through ClimateCare.org using its “carbon calculator.”
On top of these efforts to attain carbon neutrality, Dernbach and his colleagues also utilize their legal expertise to make proactive contributions. They support and offer pro bono services to Taiwan’s Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, which fights for local environmental causes, and donate at least 1% of all profits to environmental NGOs through 1% for the Planet, enabling the sustainability of long-term plans.
Although not their primary objective, the firm’s green dedication has brought about a number of unforeseen benefits.
“I never thought I would be talking to potential clients about our rainwater capture on the rooftop or using that water to flush toilets; it’s not something I thought would be a differentiator,” said Dernbach, who is regularly invited to speak on panels around the world about their methods, inadvertently promoting their firm.
Potential clients might not necessarily be swayed by a rooftop garden, but it does increase the “stickiness” of relationships with existing clients and makes them more likely to extend recommendations, Dernbach said. It has even helped with attracting talent and retention.
“We as a law firm have a real sense of purpose,” he said.
At other Taiwanese companies, the green transformation has been slow.
“They don’t really know what to do and they think that it’s prohibitively expensive,” Dernbach said. “You just don’t know until you do it.”
While impressive in scope and dedication, it is easy to feel pessimistic about Winkler Partners’ initiatives — a thermos and some rooftop kale seem like a step forward, until you hear hundreds of scooters revving down the street and remember the depth of the challenge before us.
However, Dernbach remains optimistic.
“It’s not going to change everything that one law firm in Taipei gets 20% of its energy from solar panels,” he said. “But if the building next to us also has one company that invests in solar panels and the building next to them, if we keep that going, then we will eventually reach a tipping point.”
Until then, we can count on the dedication of firms like Winkler Partners and the optimism of individuals such as Dernbach to inspire the best in us.
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