‘I have two daughters, and they should have a nice planet to live on as well’, says Juriaan Vreeburg, our Facility Services Director, who oversees operational facilities (apart from IT) at all NautaDutilh offices. Together with his team, Juriaan embraces the challenge of continuously improving the quality and efficiency of the firm’s facilities and working environment, without losing sight of sustainability. When asked what sustainability means to him, Juriaan replies that he sees that we are depleting the earth’s resources and that this must stop. ‘It’s important to be aware of this, not only for ourselves but also for our children. It is not going to get any better. Sustainability is a matter of common sense.’ The use of common sense is characteristic of his approach to sustainability.
Juriaan has a very hands-on mentality. When he see an opportunity to save energy or reduce waste, he tries to do so using cost-neutral measures. For instance, our new waste management contract may appear more expensive but by removing all 600 individual bins from the offices, we save money on cleaning and eliminate the use of more than 100,000 plastic bags per year. This pragmatic approach has led to numerous sustainability initiatives within the business operations of NautaDutilh over the past few years, such as switching to thinner paper in the copiers and placing water coolers and reusable bottles in all offices. Juriaan is supported by the CSR Committee (Amsterdam and Rotterdam), the Think Green Committee (Brussels) and the Green Committee (Luxembourg), whose members promote the greening of NautaDutilh’s offices and business operations.
Our office buildings
When NautaDutilh moved to new offices in Amsterdam and Rotterdam in 2016, we expressly opted for sustainable buildings. Both buildings are certified BREEAM-NL Excellent, a high standard for new office buildings. We also took environmental standards into account when it came to choosing our leased offices in Brussels (certified BREAAM In-Use Very Good) and New York City (HQE, BREEAM and LEED). Certification provides assurance concerning sustainability factors such as energy efficiency, materials, water use, waste management and indoor air quality. Both the Amsterdam and Rotterdam offices use green energy, generated from wind.
All our offices have introduced a waste management system to promote recycling. For instance, at the Amsterdam and Rotterdam offices, we replaced individual wastepaper bins with collective recycling bins in the pantries. Organic waste is to a large extent put to use in so-called worm hotels. We also grow our own herbs for use in our catering services. Our coffee grounds are collected and used as a base for mushroom cultivation. Our Luxembourg office has a SuperDrecksKëscht® waste management system based on ISO standard 14024. In New York City, recycling is mandatory by law, and recycling instructions are posted next to bins.
For our Amsterdam and Rotterdam offices, we have included KPIs on sustainability in our contract with the caterer, i.e. 25% organic food, 10% locally produced, a vegetarian alternative for each meal and food waste below 4%. Leftover fruit and vegetables are used to make smoothies and soup. All other organic waste is used in the worm hotels. As NautaDutilh negotiated fixed margins on personnel costs and products, the chef is not dependent on wholesalers and can buy at local shops. This is more sustainable and has resulted in improved meal quality. In order to further reduce food waste, our caterer sells leftover meals to our employees via the app Too Good To Go. Our Brussels and Luxembourg offices work with local, seasonal and healthy ingredients. The reduction of (plastic) packaging is an important issue as well. For example, plastic water bottles have been removed from all offices and replaced with water coolers or taps. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 restrictions, we have seen an increase in food packaging materials over the past year.
Office supplies: Paper consumption
Picture a lawyer’s desk and stacks of paper spring to mind. It is quite a challenge to beat the impulse to print every document, not only for client files but also for personal use. In 2019, a Going Paperless working group was set up, which analysed paper consumption at all offices and made recommendations on how to reduce paper use, both individually and as a firm.
The results of the analysis were quite encouraging: although paper consumption at the Benelux offices is impressively high (nearly 50 tonnes of paper and over 13 million prints per year), it appears that 70%-90% is for internal use. This means that much of this consumption can be reduced through a variety of measures. Due to Covid-19, most employees are working from home so we have not yet implemented many of the working group’s recommendations. Some of the measures that have been implemented relate to the use of a badge system and double screens. We believe that our experience over the past year can be used to stimulate a paperless office, since we all now know that it is not necessary to print every document.