Profile: Matt Cripsey, Director & Sustainability Consultant

What motivated you to get involved in ESG?

It all stems from my enjoyment of just being outside. I’m always out cycling or hillwalking when I have a free evening or weekend. Like anyone who spends time outside, I notice changes. And when you start researching those changes, you get concerned. I’ve done a few mountaineering trips to the Alps; each time I went I saw that the glaciers were smaller and the climbing routes more prone to rockfall. On top of that, winters in the UK are more changeable. In the Cairngorms, I often get surprised by a ptarmigan or mountain hare, perfectly camouflaged in their white winter coats until they dart across the mountainside. But with less reliable snow cover, what had previously been camouflage is increasingly a liability: they become a white target against the heather, easily spotted by predators. And this is just the climate change side; I haven’t even got on to direct human impacts on nature. But these few examples and many others led me to return to university a few years ago to study for an MSc degree in Environment and Sustainability, which has been my springboard to working in the ESG space.

What did you study and how are you applying it to your work at Kidd Aitken ESG?

I focused my studies on environment and conservation policy, corporate sustainability and reporting, and environmental management. I also did a research project focusing on sustainable behaviours and their drivers. To my mind, it’s a great foundation for the work we’re doing at Kidd Aitken ESG. Investigating and understanding the behaviours that take place within law firms is key to developing a plan to address and improve them. You have to engage with everyone across the firm to figure out, for example, why partners might be so keen to travel for meetings, why there is a reluctance to commit time to ESG training, or why no one has yet thought about remote-working emissions and how to reduce them. This sort of engagement gets people thinking and provides the insight necessary to developing a plan that people are going to buy in to. It also ensures that you can select the frameworks and certifications to pursue that are most relevant to your firm. And this is key. A one-size-fits-all approach is never the right way to go.

What services are you most excited to develop at Kidd Aitken ESG?

While it’s obviously just great that law firms are wanting to take action on ESG, the really exciting side of things is going to be collaborating with firms that want to be at the cutting edge. It’ll involve projects focused on advised emissions and sustainability impacts. The publication of the Law Society’s guidance for solicitors drew a great deal more attention to this topic, and it’s already a key agenda point for some of the larger firms with more-developed ESG positions. There are a few questions that will need to be addressed at an early stage, though. For example, are quantitative approaches required for advised emissions and impacts? As an extension of downstream Scope 3, it could be decided that figures are going to be necessary for reporting. My concern here would be that the challenges in obtaining reliable figures will forestall action. Firms will also need to decide whether they want to develop their own approaches to advised emissions or whether to collaborate. Historically, firms have not collaborated widely, but the Legal Charter 1.5 initiative is already showing that firms are wanting to develop ideas around advised emissions together. With collaboration and knowledge sharing critical to delivering solutions at the pace and scale required, this can only be good news.