Moving on from the Foundations for Responsible Business programme and becoming an alumni member, we learn from 3 Verulam Buildings and the changes they've made to cut their carbon emissions


Recently we caught up with Stewart Thompson, Chambers Director at 3 Verulam Buildings, a barristers’ chamber. They’ve been a member of Heart of the City’s Foundations for Responsible Business programme since 2021 and after three years, are now becoming alumni members.

What have you enjoyed about working with Heart of the City?

Before joining Heart of the City, our focus was and continues to be supporting opportunities for underrepresented groups in legal services. For example, our Chambers provides mentoring services to underrepresented groups through Bridging the Bar, an organisation which increases opportunities within the legal profession. We also host students from the Sutton Trust, as well as support local artists by showcasing their art at our premises.

Prior to joining Heart of the City, we knew that we wanted to do more to address social inequalities in the borough but we needed to ensure that our commitment was structured and well thought-out. This is why we sought out Heart of the City, so that we could learn from other organisations who were further ahead in their Corporate Social Responsible journey. We were right! It gave us almost instant access to excellent advice and first-class resources, and we were able to learn and share ideas with like-minded organisations. This is probably what we valued the most about our time as a member on the Foundations for Responsible Business programme.

As well as your work on supporting the community, you’ve been very active on your sustainability journey. Can you tell us about some the green initiatives you’ve started at 3VB?

There’s been a lot of change at 3 Verulam Buildings. We were successful in our council’s application to join the Camden Climate Change Alliance which meant we secured funding to help install energy efficiency measures, such as solar PV (solar electricity panels).

We’re based in a listed building, but even then, we’ve managed to make changes such as:

  • Upgrading the boilers to more energy efficient systems
  • Having Wi-Fi controlled thermostats on radiators
  • Installing secondary double glazing
  • New carpets which are plastic free and recyclable
  • Replacing lighting with LEDs
  • Having water efficient toilets
  • Removing water fountains and installing filtered tap water in all the kitchens
  • Installing secure bike racks
  • Ensuring recyclable waste is separated from general waste.

We’re still quite paper-based but we now use smaller print formats, print double sided, and luckily paperless working/E-Bundling is becoming more popular. Our target is to reduce paper use by 30 % each year against our FY19/20 consumption rate. In addition, anything we send as a physical copy, goes via eco-friendly couriers.

What’s been a way to engage staff on your green initiatives?

We have had good engagement from our members and staff over cleaning and recycling. We moved cleaning contractors to work with a company that will only empty bins if the waste is disposed of responsibly. Individuals are emailed by the cleaning company if the waste bin contains items that are recyclable, and this action has helped to change habits, more than we were expecting.

Our target is for 100% of our waste to be composted, recycled, or turned into usable electricity and heat within the next 12 months.

What’s another knock-on effect of these initiatives?

We’re now more confident to ask what our suppliers are doing to support the environment. We now expect our suppliers’ environmental credentials to be at a certain level. They must share their environmental policy and tell us what measures they’re taking to become more environmentally efficient. This influences our choice of supplier.

What’s next for 3VB?

We review our Environmental Action Plan quarterly, and we’re always looking at new ways to improve our environmental impact.  The installation of solar panels, when it’s finally approved, will be a significant step for us.

The biggest challenge to us is international travel. We do a lot of international work, and our barristers are expected to travel overseas to meet clients and attend court. We employ a carbon offset programme, and we are seeing more court/arbitration hearings conducted virtually, but ultimately our aim is to reduce the amount of international travel that we do, and we have plans to address that soon.

“It’s been fantastic working with Stewart and we’re looking forward to working with 3VB as alumni members”, Olivia, Foundations for Responsible Business Programme Manager


Interested in joining the Foundations for Responsible Business Programme?:  Build and amplify your responsible business practices be joining our Foundations for Responsible Business programme.

Become an alumni of Heart of the City:  If you’re looking for light-touch support, join our community as an alumni member.

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