Wendel Rosen Certified As a Green Business
August 19, 2003 - Oakland law firm Wendel, Rosen, Black & Dean LLP launches its new Sustainable Business and Natural Products Practice Group. They will focus on clients in the natural and organic foods and products, alternative energy, "green building" and other industries that emphasize sustainability and environmental health. Additionally, Wendel Rosen became the first law firm in the country to be awarded "green" status by a certifying agency (in this case the Bay Area Green Business Program), and joined the ranks of approximately 300 Bay Area "green" businesses.
According to Practice Group Leader Bruce Lymburn, "More and more consumers place a premium on the health of their families and the planet. They are no longer content with ordinary supplies of goods and services, but instead want to integrate their environmental values with their purchasing power. We believe that businesses that respond to this consumer demand will prosper, and we want to help them do so."
The Sustainable Business and Natural Products Practice Group advises a range of clients, which include successful individual entrepreneurs, private businesses and large, publicly held companies. Wendel Rosen attorneys counsel clients that value environmental sustainability on business law subjects, including the National Organic Program, FDA/FTC regulations, advertising laws, distribution agreements, formation of business entities, leasing, secured transactions, employment matters, dispute resolution (including litigation), trademark protection and construction law. "Based on need, the group also calls upon other firm attorneys for expertise in specific areas of law," says practice group attorney Richard Lyons. According to a recent study by the Natural Marketing Institute, 90 percent of LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) consumers said they preferred to make purchases from companies that shared their values, and many said they were willing to pay a premium for products and services they considered sustainable. Wendel Rosen conducted an informal survey of its clients and found that many cited shared values as important to them when selecting service providers.
According to Gary Erickson, owner and CEO of Clif Bar Inc., "Wendel Rosen has represented Clif Bar for many years and has been a big part of our success. I am very pleased that Wendel Rosen, in addition to providing us with high-quality legal services, shares our values in helping to create natural products, a sustainable economy, and environmental health." Gary Gerber, president of Sun Light & Power Company, Northern California's oldest solar energy contractor, says, "We place a high priority on doing business with companies that share our commitment to sustainability. Wendel Rosen has demonstrated that commitment."
The Bay Area Green Business Program certified Wendel Rosen as an environmentally sustainable "green business" following, among other things, audits from PG&E, East Bay Municipal Utility District, the City of Oakland and Alameda County. The firm demonstrated reductions in paper, energy, water and waste; increases in recycling; and took other measures to lessen environmental impacts
"This is the first law firm to be certified, and I don't think there is another in the country that has undertaken this kind of effort," stated Pamela Evans, coordinator for the Alameda County program.
"We have gone through this certification process for two basic reasons," added Lymburn. "First, as a firm, we believe that operating in an environmentally-friendly way is socially responsible. Second, it's smart business. We believe over the long term, we will realize substantial savings by adopting sustainable business practices. As a side note, this has created great morale throughout the firm. Employees feel proud to work at a place that cares about its impact on the world, and they seem to enjoy finding and sharing ways they can contribute to the effort both at work and at home."
The firm's first step toward green certification involved hiring a consultant to present an educational series on sustainable practices to all firm employees. This provided a common framework and vocabulary for the numerous tasks undertaken throughout the process and also established a greater understanding of the global environment and impact of civilization on eco-systems. To implement the programs that led to certification, the firm established a Sustainability Team comprised of attorneys and staff led by in-house sustainability expert attorney Donald Simon. The team analyzed all of the firm's environmental impacts and made recommendations for areas of improvement. Some were undertaken immediately, and others will be phased in over time.
For example, in an industry known for "papering clients to death," the firm switched to entirely 100 percent, post-consumer waste recycled paper, processed chlorine-free. For printing projects the firm will use soy-based inks. "These measures alone save more than 250 mature trees, 24,000 gallons of water, 40,000 pounds of greenhouse gases, and 31,400 kilowatt hours each year," says Simon. Among many other conservation measures, Wendel Rosen has instituted two-sided copying as a default for most reports and copy jobs. The firm also encourages electronic transmission of documents, whenever possible.
Wendel Rosen was also selected by the California Integrated Waste Management Board for a case study on how medium-sized law firms can reduce waste.
The firm's sustainability effort is generating a ripple affect on its vendors, including landlord The Shorenstein Company, with which Wendel Rosen has worked to make the initiative a reality.
Shorenstein's local property manager worked with the firm's sustainability team to track and tighten procedures for recycling on the property. Based on these efforts, Shorenstein is considering expanding changes implemented at the firm's site into its other buildings.
About The Bay Area Green Business Program
The Bay Area Green Business Program was developed by Bay Area local governments in collaboration with US EPA, Cal EPA Department of Toxic Substances Control and the business community. The Association of Bay Area Governments coordinates the Program, which is implemented by Green Business Coordinators in six participating counties. Approximately 290 businesses and public agencies have been certified since 1996. Additional information can be found here.
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