Each of us can make a difference, together we can make a change. In 2022, we focused on delivering more and better results in the communities in which we live and work by strengthening the relationships with our CSR partners, sharpening our focus on four SDGs, and bringing our CSR and pro bono efforts together in one firm-wide programme.
Together, we can amplify our positive impact on society. That is why in 2022, we launched the NautaDutilh Impact Programme. This is a firm-wide umbrella programme for all our pro bono work, community involvement, and CSR activities. We contribute our collective (legal) expertise and skills to empower the next generation, focusing on four SDGs (Education, Equality, Climate Action, and Access to Justice). The programme is led by a Steering Committee, with SDG working groups and our Pro Bono Committee assuming responsibility for projects.
We provide everyone at our firm – both lawyers and business support professionals – with four Impact Days per year to spend on community engagement, volunteering, or pro bono work. This amounts to potentially 20,000 Impact Hours per year. These hours count towards billable targets. Participation is on a voluntary basis. We engage our colleagues through initiatives undertaken by employees and projects initiated by the SDG working groups and the Pro Bono Committee.
Impact focus: Quality Education
We focus on empowering the next generation, and one of the ways we do this is by contributing to access to education for young people and children who would otherwise miss out on educational opportunities and possibilities.
Highlights of 2022 include the projects with our longstanding partners Stichting IMC Weekendschool in Rotterdam and JINC in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Both organisations focus on empowering children in their school and career path. Colleagues coached secondary school students on possible career choices and organised Sunday courses to introduce children to the legal system and the various jobs at a law firm. Expanding our cooperation with IMC Weekendschool, we also organised a speed date event in Amsterdam with IMC Weekendschool alumni. During these dates, participants discussed jobs, studies and career possibilities at our firm.
Our Brussels office has a partnership with Be.Face, supporting students from underprivileged backgrounds in entering the workforce. We also organised seminars on employment topics for Alter for Hum. This group of Human Resource Managers assists young people who are looking for a first job and older people looking for a professional reorientation.
We initiated next steps: setting KPIs to measure our impact on SDG 4, determining potential projects in this field with colleagues in our London and New York offices, and expanding our partnerships and projects to increase our contribution to access to education.
Impact focus: Access to Justice
Access to justice is a human right. As a law firm, we can make a difference by using the law as an instrument for change. This means our pro bono work is fundamental to who we are as a firm.
In our pro bono work, focus areas are the protection of human rights, sustainability, and support for the cultural sector. Core activities include advising non-profit organisations and assisting those who would otherwise have no access to top-tier lawyers in strategic litigation, specifically before the Dutch Supreme Court. We amplify our impact by entering into partnerships with non-profit organisations such as Pro Bono Connect, the clearing house for pro bono cases, MVO Nederland, the largest business network for sustainable entrepreneurs, Siréas, a Belgian non-profit association that provides assistance to people in social difficulty, in particular refugees and immigrants, and the #ReAct programme by the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce and the House of Entrepreneurship.
Beyond legal work, our commitment to furthering access to justice means we support Lawyers for Lawyers, a non-profit organisation that defends lawyers whose right to practice is under threat. Partnering with the NGO Welcome, we organised lunches for colleagues and newcomers in the Netherlands, who had to flee their country due to an unsafe environment.
One of our work highlights in 2022 was the ruling of the Court of Appeals of the Dutch Caribbean that the inability of same sex couples on Aruba and Curaçao to marry is discriminatory and therefore unlawful. This case is ongoing: the states of Aruba and Curaçao filed an appeal in cassation.
Other meaningful work includes assisting in a Sri Lankan adoption case against the Dutch State and an adoption organisation. The Hague Court of Appeal ruled in favour of our client, given the malpractice associated with adoptions from Sri Lanka. As the Dutch state filed an appeal in cassation, this case is still ongoing. Our Luxembourg office provided pro bono support to the Association of Accidental Americans in their effort to halt the transfers of personal data to the US tax authorities. The proceedings could result in preliminary questions to the European Court of Justice on whether the transfer of personal data to the US constitutes a GDPR violation.
We worked closely together with Stichting Vluchtelingenwerk (Dutch Council for Refugees) on several urgent impact projects. We assisted in a pending appeal before the Hague Court of Appeal against the Dutch State concerning the State’s violation of human rights of refugees, we advised on various legal issues related to the specific status of Ukrainian refugees in the Netherlands. Together with other Dutch law firms, we assisted in processing refugees’ stories of how they fled. In Belgium, we joined the legal support desk for displaced people from Ukraine, an initiative of the French-speaking Brussels Bar Association and the Belgian Red Cross.
Each year, two of our employees can participate in our paid one-month CSR Sabbatical to contribute to a CSR project. In 2022, one employee worked for a month at a Kenyan coffee mill station that processes coffee beans grown by local women farmers.
Employee-led initiatives under the Impact Programme include volunteer work to support those affected by the war in Ukraine, swimming events to raise funds for the ALS Foundation, running for KickCancer in Brussels, collecting food for foodbanks in the Netherlands and for Operation Shoebox in Brussels, donating toys for children in need in the Netherlands, Luxembourg and New York. We also donated laptops to our CSR partner #allemaaldigitaal, a Dutch foundation with the mission to provide digital access to everyone.
Room for improvement
In 2022, the SDG working groups for SDG 5 (Gender) Equality and SDG 13 (Climate Action) focussed on internal projects only. To increase our impact, they will take up external projects as well. We can also do better in terms of overall awareness and engagement. In 2022, our colleagues collectively registered over 1,600 hours spent on CSR activities and 1,100 hours spent on pro bono work. This means we do not yet use the full potential of our Impact Programme. We can also further improve cooperation across our offices. To this end, we for instance ensure that there are partners from our Dutch, Belgium and Luxembourg offices on our Impact Programme Steering Committee and our Pro Bono Committee. In summary, our focus for 2023 is on working together, both within our firm and with our CSR partners, to amplify our positive impact.