Love it or hate it, the ‘ESG’ acronym (environmental, social and governance) is a useful starting point when thinking about the elements of a responsible business. When considering what will feature in your responsible business plan, it’s worth considering your organisation’s environmental and social impact and overall governance structures.

In 2023, a responsible business should aim to: monitor its carbon footprint; reduce its waste, greenhouse gas emissions and water usage; equalise access to the profession; monitor and improve diversity and inclusion; pay employees fairly; facilitate your people’s wellbeing; ensure everyone is appropriately trained in matters from inclusion to cyber security to anti-money laundering; and ensure policies and processes are in place to back it all up. Current and prospective clients, members, and employees don’t necessarily expect you to have implemented all of this already, but they do expect you to set ambitious goals, get an action plan in place, and be transparent about your progress.


All businesses should acknowledge the climate emergency and the role they have in tackling it. Although they will look very different to a manufacturer’s actions, there are steps that professional services providers such as barristers’ chambers can take.

At Matrix, our starting point was to identify champions, measure our carbon footprint and set targets. First of all, consider how you will measure your emissions. The Bar Sustainability Network (via Achill Management) provides access to a carbon calculator that highlights all the aspects to measure as well as helping with the necessary conversions. This way, you can see not only what your overall carbon footprint is, but also where you can have the biggest impact.

When considering setting environmental goals, at the most basic level, you should be committing to reaching Net Zero with respect to Scope 1 and 2 emissions as soon as possible, as well as taking steps to measure and reduce Scope 3 emissions. If in doubt, has a jargon buster that explains the difference between Net Zero and carbon neutral, and defines Scopes 1, 2 and 3.

Ultimately, chambers will need their members to be on board with making change in this area, because high impact projects – switching to LED lighting, installing solar panels, fitting heat pumps – have corresponding high costs. That said, while you’re working on changing hearts and minds, don’t be afraid to pick the low-hanging fruit: switch to a green energy tariff (but beware of greenwashing), use recycled paper, set thermostats one degree lower, and so on.


Being a responsible chambers also means recognising businesses’ and the legal industry’s wider responsibilities to society. It includes promoting equality, diversity and inclusion, as well as health and wellbeing, and good labour standards. It’s not necessarily about donating to charity or undertaking pro bono work, although that may be part of it, and chambers may find such initiatives make them more appealing to potential clients and applicants alike.

Here again, champions, measuring, and targets are key. From a pure compliance perspective, chambers are required to have an Equality & Diversity Officer (EDO) and to report on diversity data every three years. Comparing your chambers’ diversity data with data for the Bar and for the population (either nationally or more locally as appropriate) will give you an indication of any areas of underrepresentation.

Once you’ve done that basic auditing step, you can set targets (not to be confused with quotas) for your organisation. Consider whether it might be appropriate to break the targets down, into KCs, junior barristers, trainees/pupils, and senior and junior staff, for example. Look at how you can ensure your recruitment processes are fair and inclusive, and don’t forget to consider retention and progression as well.

Any targets should be backed up by an action plan. As with environmental efforts, chambers need to plan to put their money where their mouth is, but a shortage of funding is no excuse for a lack of action. There are countless schemes in which chambers can participate to a greater or lesser extent according to their resources: 10,000 Black Interns, Bridging the Bar, and Bringing [Dis]bility to the Bar, to name just a few. There are also various charters, pledges and indexes you can sign up to, which provide a framework for action, such as the Women in Law Pledge, the FreeBar Charter, the Social Mobility Index, and the government’s Disability Confident scheme.

Beyond equality, diversity and inclusion, responsible chambers should be considering how to protect the health and wellbeing of members, trainees/pupils, and staff, how to ensure pay structures are fair, and how to ensure your business is not inadvertently enabling modern slavery or money laundering. Again, there are places you can go to get you started, such as Wellbeing at the Bar ( and the Living Wage Foundation (


Finally, the (often overlooked) ‘G’ in ESG is the structure that makes the ‘E’ and the ‘S’ possible. At Matrix, we believe our responsible business efforts are successful because they are enshrined in our core values, on which Chambers was founded and which are central to how we work and how the organisation operates.

We review and update our policies and constitution iteratively to ensure they are conducive to good decision-making that is in line with our values. When we set ambitious, data-based, and time-limited goals and plan accordingly, our Management Committee agree to be held accountable to those goals and to dedicate reasonable resources to enable us to achieve them.

Getting started

In the last year or so, you may have received a number of requests from clients to demonstrate that you have assessed your cyber security and have introduced effective safeguards. Some clients will now not work with chambers that don’t have sufficient measures in place. It is likely that similar requirements regarding responsible business measures will follow shortly behind, so savvy chambers will act now and be ready for them.

The steps you could take in this area are practically limitless, which can make getting started difficult. A strategic approach involves benchmarking, target setting, and action planning, but it is better to do something, get it wrong, and then do it better than to be frozen by the size of the task.