At Osler, we are dedicated to incorporating ESG awareness into every aspect of our firm — from our buildings to the people in our buildings. We take our commitment to this corporate responsibility very seriously; it is reflected in our reduced environmental footprint, inclusive workplace, our pro bono contributions and our investment in our communities.
Short for Environmental, Social and Governance, ESG refers to the three main criteria that can be used to measure the sustainability and ethical impact of an organization:
- Environmental – resource use, climate change and sustainability
- Social – diversity, human rights and community contribution
- Governance – management and board structure, practice leadership and employee relations
Though these factors aren’t necessarily financial, experts say they do influence the long-term risk and return of an organization — and therefore its financial performance. According to ESG gurus ADEC Innovations, “Companies that use ESG standards are more conscientious, less risky and are more likely to succeed in the long run.”
Why does ESG make good business sense?
More and more, people are looking beyond pure financials when making decisions about where to work and invest, and who to partner with, and are taking ESG factors into account. However, the impact of ESG doesn’t stop there — it is becoming increasingly important for businesses of all kinds to consider ESG criteria and incorporate them into their corporate strategy and operations.
ESG at Osler
For Osler, a commitment to the three pillars of ESG is an essential aspect of our corporate responsibility mandate and the driver behind many of the firm’s ongoing initiatives.
Osler is dedicated to responsible environmental stewardship and the efficient use of resources. Over the past several years, the firm has instituted various environmental initiatives to reduce our carbon footprint, including improved energy performance through upgrades and enhancements to building facilities, waste reduction and recycling, adoption of low-energy appliances and lighting, AV facilities and tools to replace the need for business travel and implementing smarter, more efficient computing technologies.
In short, we recognize the importance of rising to the challenge of environmental sustainability — while embracing the opportunities that green initiatives present. We pledge to continue working to reduce the overall environmental impact of our operations.
Specific examples of ways we have incorporated environmental mindfulness into our operations include
- Since energy usage is one of the main drivers of Osler’s overall emissions, selecting highly energy-efficient buildings for our office locations is a key component of our environmental strategy:
- First Canadian Place (FCP) (Osler’s Toronto headquarters) is certified LEED® Gold for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance. As a result of a number of initiatives — from installing high-efficiency heating, cooling and water systems, to replacing incandescent lighting with LED/compact fluorescents — FCP has succeeded in reducing its carbon emissions by 32% since its 2013 baseline year.
- Constitution Square, home of our Ottawa office, was awarded the LEED for Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance Platinum Certification by the Canadian Green Building Council (2015–2020), making it one of the preeminent market leaders in environmental management. This certification recognizes the building’s performance in sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality and innovation in operations.
- In 2016, Le 1000, our Montréal premises, received a LEED Silver Certification for Existing Buildings: Operation and Maintenance and was awarded he BOMA BEST® Platinum Certification. Ongoing efforts include EV charging stations, secured bicycle storage for the Smart Commute Program and energy-reducing motion detectors, heat recuperators, efficient lighting and reusing and recycling older electronics.
- Our Vancouver location received LEED Gold Certification in 2017 and BOMA Best Certification in 2018. The building uses best-in-class energy and water management practices, includes bicycle racks and EV charging stations and has annual energy, water and waste reduction targets.
- Osler’s office in Calgary has reduced energy use for six consecutive years. The building includes sensor-based LED lighting, bicycle stalls to encourage alternative commuting, electronic, battery and Styrofoam recycling programs, and has recently added new high-efficiency boilers to conserve energy. Calgary is also the lead office for Osler’s paperless initiative. In 2019, approximately 2,270 trees were saved as a result of the building’s waste diversion.
- Osler is committed to finding more ways to reduce waste, increase recycling and reuse materials:
- Our Osler Works service offering embraces AI and the latest technologies to reduce paper-based due diligence and discovery. Documents required for corporate transactions or litigation are prepared and stored electronically, and duplex printing is the default setting throughout the firm, significantly reducing our paper output.
- The firm is committed to the “reduce, reuse, recycle” approach to managing waste, from providing recycling bins at every desk, to offering the use of reusable mugs and cutlery and compostable coffee products, to eliminating straws and other single-use items. As a result, between 50% and 87% of office waste across Osler offices is diverted from landfills when compared to baseline metrics.
- We have implemented a series of smarter technologies to reduce our overall energy usage, including tenant-triggered sensory controls on lighting and HVAC and using Microsoft Teams, Zoom and other tools for online meetings to reduce the need for travel.
- Our Hospitality Service offers an environmentally friendly food offering that includes plant-based meal options and protein foods not from animal sources.
Osler takes the “social” pillar of ESG very seriously. Our commitment to society is reflected in
- Diversity and inclusion initiatives
- Pro bono work
- Community giving
- Involvement of our many lawyers and staff members in leadership roles at charitable, non-profit and community organizations
As a firm, we are committed to diversity and inclusion, not only in our hiring practices and day-to-day operations, but also in our involvement in our communities and our pro bono advocacy efforts. By embracing our differences, we not only offer a better work environment where our people can develop and thrive, but also deliver better solutions to our clients — solutions that are invariably the most innovative and open pathways to success. Drawing on diverse perspectives enables our teams to address complex problems creatively and provide the highest quality legal services.
Osler was one of the first law firms in Canada to create a diversity mandate to promote diversity within the firm, within the framework of the Osler culture of excellence and merit.
Examples of our diversity and inclusion initiatives include
- We conduct a biennial demographic survey on diversity at the firm so we can develop initiatives that best respond to the needs of our firm and our increasingly diverse client base.
- We offer the General Counsel Dashboard, a unique reporting tool that enables us to report on diversity and inclusion at Osler at the matter level and support our clients’ diversity objectives both strategically and in a measurable manner.
- Our Gender Work Allocation Report provides partners with an individualized summary showing the number of hours associates spent on their various files over the past year, broken down by gender.
- We support several Legal Professional Resource Groups at the firm that are driven by legal professionals who bring their shared experiences and backgrounds to the table, including the Osler Asia-Pacific Affinity Network, the Osler Women Lawyers’ Network, the Osler Pride Network, the Osler Black Lawyers’ Network and the Osler South Asian Network.
- In 2018, the firm established the Osler Diversity Scholarship Program that recognizes law students’ diversity and inclusion efforts within their law school, the legal profession or the broader non-law community.
- Along with other leading Canadian law firms, Osler signed the BlackNorth Initiative Law Firm Pledge in 2020 as part of our commitment to ending anti-Black and other forms of structural racism in the legal profession.
- In 2021, also in partnership with other Canadian law firms, Osler committed $1.75 million over 10 years to the Black Future Lawyers organization, which provides engagement and mentorship opportunities to Black undergraduate students interested in becoming lawyers.
In recognition of our diversity and inclusion efforts, Osler was named one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers in both 2016 and 2017. In 2020, Osler was named Canadian "Firm of the Year" at the Euromoney Legal Media Group Americas Business in Law Awards and recognized for the "Best Gender Diversity Initiative by a National Firm" and as "Best Firm for Diversity" in North America.
In addition, as a firm, we are strongly committed to giving back to our communities — whether it’s through pro bono advisory and advocacy efforts, actively promoting causes or contributing to fundraising campaigns. Our lawyers regularly offer their expertise on a pro bono basis, including through Pro Bono Ontario which provides essential legal services to low-income Ontarians whose needs are not met by governmental programs. In Osler’s first year of participation in 2017/2018, PBO’s Free Legal Advice Hotline received over 14,000 calls and Osler donated more hours than any other large firm.
Osler also sponsors and participates in a number of important programs and initiatives that empower disenfranchised members of our communities. Our commitment is reflected in our substantial contributions every year and the countless volunteer hours donated by lawyers and staff to support worthy causes and organizations. Osler’s Canadian offices have raised more than $16 million to support the United Way/Centraide and its network of agencies in delivering vital social services over the past 12 years. In 2019, we marked our 20th year as United Way Toronto’s top fundraising campaign within the legal sector.
Osler’s governance system is structured similarly to a complex private company with all of the governance structure and processes to properly define roles and responsibilities, strategy, business operations and people management.
Osler has a national Partnership Board made up of partners from each of the firm’s offices and departments that acts like a board of directors for the firm and supervises the management of the firm and the firm business.
The firm also has an Operations Committee that provides guidance and oversight of the day-to-day operations of the firm. The Operations Committee is comprised of
- the National Managing Partner, who acts as the Chief Executive Office of the firm
- Office Managing Partners, who manage each of Osler’s six offices
- Department Chairs
- Practice Group leaders
- the firm’s Chief Operating Officer
A Chair and/or Vice-Chairs of the firm are appointed by the Partnership Board and act as the primary face of the firm externally with the legal and business community.
We have national internal departments that reflect our main lines of business such as Corporate, Litigation, Tax, and Employment and Labour. Each department in the firm has a Department Chair who is responsible for leading and managing lawyers in their departments and driving overall business objectives and planning. Within each department, the firm is further broken down into practice groups that reflect Osler’s client base and the specialized services that Osler offers to clients.
Additional committees represent key constituents of the firm — Legal Professionals, Associates, Paraprofessionals, Students and Alumni. The firm also has committees addressing broader interests, such as diversity, ethics and conflicts, pro bono/community, charitable support and social activities for the firm.
We also recognize the importance of diversity in our governance framework. Our firm’s Diversity Mandate is to promote diversity within the firm, and within the framework of the Osler culture of excellence and merit. As at December 31, 2021, 63% of senior executives in Osler’s administration are held by women and 30% of the partners at Osler are women. Between 2014 and 2021, women represented 43% of our new partners. In addition, one of Osler’s two National Co-Chairs is a woman and two of the six office or national managing partner roles — in Montréal and Ottawa — are held by women.
Our Partnership Board has determined that the advancement of a greater percentage of women into our partnership is a strategic priority for the firm, with the overall objective of greater gender parity. In support of this goal, we have committed significant resources to a multi-faceted Advancement of Women Lawyers program that includes mentoring, coaching and training, among other things. This initiative helps to identify and dismantle obstacles that hinder inclusion and focuses on implementing targeted and tailored strategies to enable Osler to retain women lawyers, promote women associates to partner and advance women partners into leadership positions within the firm.
Osler is also a long-time member of the 30% club. Our Partnership Board has set the mandate that at least 30% of its members be women and has implemented a guideline that women comprise at least 30% of the members on our Compensation Committee. As of March 9, 2022, five of the 13 members of the Partnership Board are women, and our Operations Committee consists of six women and 13 men.
For Osler, this is just the beginning. The tenets of ESG are woven into the fabric of our firm culture and we will continue to review, improve and add to our internal, client-facing and community-based initiatives to ensure we meet — and exceed — the goals we’ve set for our corporate responsibility mandate.