Why we launched Kidd Aitken ESG

Origins of Kidd Aitken

It all began with Kidd Aitken Legal Marketing. We’ve grown this company into a leading provider of awards and recognition services, having assisted some 300 law firms globally with their directory submissions, award pitches and other marketing needs. Our team is now the largest consultancy of its kind in the world, with experience working with firms of all sizes: from small boutiques to full-service international firms. Consequently, we have unique insight into law firm activity in nearly every market.

ESG drivers in the legal sector

Given our original business’s focus on issues of law firm reputation, it was only a matter of time before conversations with clients turned to ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance). Their concerns stem from client demand and the ongoing ‘war for talent’, making ESG performance a key reputational issue. (Not that there isn’t also a genuine desire to do good!)

We’ve been hearing more and more about the pressure firms are facing to commit to environmental sustainability and social impact. Law firms’ clients are asking them to disclose ESG data and policies, they’re looking to them for guidance on ESG best practice, and they’re wanting to make sure their legal service providers’ values align with their own. It’s a similar case on the talent side: younger lawyers especially are looking to work for firms that demonstrate more of a purpose-driven approach.

All of this is adding urgency and pushing ESG up law firms’ agendas.  

The challenges firms are facing

In terms of ESG action, guidance for the professional services sector has been far less forthcoming than it has for industrials – which is understandable, given the sector’s relatively low level of direct environmental and social impacts. In some instances, firms have used this as an excuse not to act, while in other cases firms simply do not know what to prioritise or even how to start. In others still, the challenge is in orchestrating action across what can be very siloed organisations.

While client demand will require a commitment to emissions reporting and reduction, and to enhancing ED&I performance, for example, the greatest impact law firms can have is through their client work. This is partly why the conversation around ‘advised emissions’ is growing in prominence (a point we’ll return to in future posts). The ‘advised emissions’ concept will force firms to think beyond the impact of operational aspects (energy use, travel, suppliers…) and pro bono work, to more fundamental questions about the potential environmental and social impacts of the work they undertake. This is one of the reasons that firms need to ensure all lawyers act according to ESG principles, rather than setting up discrete ESG practice groups.

The launch of Kidd Aitken ESG

The above gives some context to what we perceive as an urgent need to support law firms in their sustainability transitions. The need is not only for sustainability expertise but also for a real understanding of how law firms function and the challenges they face. Kidd Aitken is excellently placed to offer just that. In addition to being deeply embedded in the legal sector, we also have the requisite ESG background, notably through our longstanding team member Matt Cripsey. Matt has a deep personal interest in the subject and had just graduated from a part-time MSc course in environmental policy and corporate sustainability when he joined Daniel Kidd and Jacob Aitken to found Kidd Aitken ESG. Matt’s passion and the evident needs of our clients have together shaped our new company’s offering.

While some larger and more purpose-focused firms have internal ESG experts and coordinators, most do not. Through Kidd Aitken ESG, we’re looking forward to supporting all firms on their ESG journeys, whatever stage they are at: whether you’re looking to conduct an initial materiality assessment to begin shaping your policies and initiatives, or whether you’re looking to undertake a bespoke piece of research to target a specific impact reduction (e.g. remote-working emissions), we’re here to help.