We believe that the “classic” economic model – with businesses focusing solely on maximising profit while doing some good deeds on the side – isn’t sustainable. Corporate Social Responsibility is a start, but it’s only a start. Instead, we’re part of the movement that puts profits and purpose on equal footing. Both must be present for the long-term sustainability of business.
Making a profit is core to all businesses, but doing so while having a social purpose means an organisation can make wiser business decisions, assess the impact of these decisions on others, and protect its interests long-term. This is how we aspire to run our business. Focusing on both profit and purpose has involved integrating some important beliefs into our business operations:
We believe that we must have a positive impact on our People, as they’re our greatest asset.
We want to have a positive impact on our people, so that our people can have a positive impact on others. This belief means that we attract, foster, and retain passionate and ambitious people who are looking to provide top-notch legal advice while also contributing to society. We foster this dual-drive by creating a culture of support and wellness.
In 2018 we were recognised with a ‘Best Companies to Work For’ award, based on a standardised employee response survey. In 2019 we were awarded as one of ‘The Escape 100: Best Companies to Escape to 2019’ by Escape the City. These recognitions are earned by encouraging our people to take volunteer days and trustee positions, supporting a highly active Diversity and Inclusion Forum, and appreciating the commitments people have outside of work (which is why 25% of people Bates Wells work fewer than five days a week, and why you’ll rarely see the dull-blue glow of computer screens lighting our office late into evenings).
We believe that we have a responsibility to engage positively with our Communities and to make meaningful social contributions. Some of this comes from the clients we work with: Over 50% of our clients are charities and social enterprises making a significant impact on peoples’ lives, and a large proportion of our work in some way involves supporting the public sector and not-for-profits. As well as advising our clients, we work to benefit the whole of the public benefit sector. For example, we collaborated with government to create the Community Interest Company (CIC), a legal structure now used by over 14,000 organisations operating for the public good.
We are a commercial firm, yet embracing our purpose means we understand the motivations which drive social enterprises, non-profits and public organisations. In an effort to put our money where our mouth is, we donate 1% of profits to address social issues. We also play our part by giving thousands of hours of pro-bono work, and our people hold over one hundred charity trusteeships.
We also enjoy working with other commercial organisations to create a positive impact. It’s why we helped to launch B Corps in the UK – a movement that looks to use business as a force for good – and it’s also why we became the first UK-based, B Corp certified law firm. The B Corp community reminds us that our everyday decisions can create impact – from the soap we use to the food we order, to the paper we print on – and we look for suppliers that have a social purpose and an environmental agenda.
We believe that it’s critical to minimise our impact on the Planet. We have formally recognised the climate emergency, and in doing so have made a number of commitments, including one to reach net zero carbon in 2019. We think that’s achievable, given that we’ve reduced our carbon footprint by more than 33% since 2014, despite our business growing by 60% over the same period. We also operate as a zero-waste-to-landfill office, with 100% of our waste composted, recycled, or turned into usable electricity and heat. We genuinely believe that growth doesn’t have to come with a high environmental cost and are trying to work as sustainably as we can. We have created a robust Environmental Policy Statement to ensure we’re consistently reducing our impact.
Creating a positive impact is a long-term goal and though we haven’t cracked every detail and there’s always more to do, we’re working on it.