According to some analysts, as many as 20,000 trees would need to be planted to offset the total carbon emissions resulting from just one medium-large scale international arbitration.

Certainly, and in common with many other dispute resolution forums, arbitrations can result in a number of carbon-producing processes – the printing of lengthy submissions; travel to and from the hearing by various witnesses, experts, advocates and the arbitral panel; even the use of multiple disposable coffee cups throughout the proceedings: these all combine. The effect? Arbitrations can have a significant and detrimental environmental effect.

The Campaign for Greener Arbitrations was launched in 2019. The stated purpose of the campaign is to promote awareness of the environmental impact of arbitrations and produce best practice guides on the ways in which arbitration practitioners can act to minimise their carbon footprint.

Members of the campaign, which include such institutions as CIArb and HKIAC, are encouraged to sign the Green Pledge, under which members commit to such measures as:

  • corresponding by email where possible, as opposed to hard copy;
  • encouraging the use of video conferencing facilities as an alternative to travel;
  • promoting the use of electronic bundles at hearings;
  • questioning whether there is a true need to fly when travelling for the arbitration and offsetting carbon emissions for any arbitration-related travel.

The campaign formed a working group in early 2020 tasked with developing practical steps which, when implemented, would promote better environmental behaviour in arbitration. This culminated in the production of a set of six “Green Protocols”, containing directives intended to guide members in their efforts to reduce the environmental impact of international arbitrations.

Broadly, these cover:

  • The Green Protocol for Arbitral Proceedings and the Model Green Procedural Order  - outlines a series of suggested measures so as to conduct proceedings in a more environmentally friendly manner. The protocol contains a model order, intended to inform Procedural Orders made during the course of an arbitration.
  • The Green Protocol for Law Firms, Chambers and Legal Service Providers Working in Arbitration – this focuses on the day-to-day operations of organisations.
  • The Green Protocol for Arbitrators – as its title suggests, this includes guidance for arbitrators.
  • The Green Protocol for Arbitral Institutions – intended to provide guidance for both the internal operations of institutions and their case management.
  • The Green Protocol for Arbitration Conference – the protocol addresses event planning and implementation.
  • The Green Protocol for Arbitration Hearing Venues – intended for use by facilitators of venue spaces.

The Green Protocols were officially launched on Earth Day 2021 (22 April 2021).

It is important to note that the protocols are voluntary, and have no binding effect in respect of any existing arbitration agreements or orders.

Undoubtedly, there is work to be done to reduce the environmental impact of dispute proceedings in general. It will be interesting to see whether this initiative is embraced across the wider dispute practitioner community and in other dispute forums.