My name is Kate Fergusson and I’m Head of Responsible Business.
My role at Irwin Mitchell is built on our commitment to being a leading responsible business. We are diverse, inclusive and understand the value of an environment which enables everyone to thrive.
We work with our clients in an ethical and responsible way and we’re committed to supporting our local communities through our volunteering programs and our charitable partners.
But the key to it all is really making sure that responsible business is part of everybody's day job here. We are all empowered to make a positive difference and it makes the culture here such a refreshing and rewarding one.
Stepping into a new role
I'm really proud to have taken up a brand new role here in 2022 and it feels like a really exciting time to be part of positive change.
One of the things that attracted me was our values. It's something that stands out along with our heritage, reputation and brand. There’s quite a lot of pressure, being the first person in a new role but I’m really enjoying it. It's a really unique opportunity to build a strategy that will make us more sustainable and more inclusive in the years to come. I can see that there's already a strong foundation in place for us to work from.
I’m a trained solicitor, I've worked in the legal sector for a long time and that's given me grounding in how we work here. It’s helped me to develop my knowledge of responsible business and how it can help law firms to be the best that they can be. I’ve also learned how to develop lasting relationships and make sure that responsible business is truly embedded in everything we do.
As a new starter, I experienced an incredibly friendly and supportive welcome. People went out of their way to make sure that I had everything that I needed, that I was connected to the right people. I think that really demonstrated to me how important Irwin Mitchell's values are. It's not just something that's written on a website, it’s something that's lived in practice. That’s the human touch that matters.
Understanding responsible practice
I'm asked quite often what the difference between responsible business and ESG is. Responsible business is about the commitment we’ve made to embedding responsible practices into our culture. It's about making sure that everybody within the organization has responsible business as part of their day job. Whether you work in H.R., finance or you're in one of our legal teams, this is about how we all come together and work together. It's about how we make decisions, how we recruit people, how we support the people in our teams. I think responsible business really captures our culture and what we're trying to do to make an impact on our clients, our colleagues and our communities.
ESG is a phrase we've seen enter the media and be used regularly over the last few years. It covers environmental, social and governance. It's a term that's used by investors and for reporting purposes, so in a much more formal context. Here, we've taken the broader interpretation of the term. We use it to make Irwin Mitchell a sustainable organisation for the future, through our planning, the well-being of our people and our commitment to environmental management. At the heart it is a dedication to sustainability and to inclusion; they are two key pillars of our strategy.
As a business, we do have a responsibility to make a positive impact on our society and play our part in terms of addressing social injustices and climate change issues. As colleagues, we feel that sense of pride that we're working for an organisation that does value those things.
We won’t get there overnight. We need to recognise it's a journey that we're on together and it will take many years. There's going to be an increasing focus on some of the areas that the legal sector hasn't given enough attention. We need to do more work in supporting colleagues with disabilities. We certainly need to continue our focus on race and ethnicity. And I think that's going to be a huge focus around social mobility as well.
Clients are really interested in what their suppliers are doing in these areas. They want to know that they can work with a law firm that has integrity, one that they can trust. So I hope that that will bring opportunities for us as well in terms of how we collaborate with our clients on addressing some of the issues that will impact us all in the future.
The future of ESG
When I started my career, responsible business wasn’t something that many law firms were investing in. It's been interesting to see how it’s evolved and been prioritised. I think the biggest change that I've seen within the legal sector is the work that law firms are doing around diversity and inclusion. Hopefully in the years to come, we'll also be saying the same thing about the impact that we've had on climate change and biodiversity loss. There's more for us to do, but it's good to see the change that’s already happened.
In all of the work that we do, we're trying to leave our society in a better shape than we found it. I've got two children who remind me constantly of the need to think about recycling and think about water use. I hope that continues; the next generation are already very sustainable and environmentally friendly in terms of their thinking.
The advice I’d give to someone who wants to create positive change is to not be frightened of making mistakes. Sometimes we have to be bold and sometimes we have to make change. There are people who will support you if you've got a good idea, so don't be afraid to voice your ideas and to ask for help.
We can all make a positive impact, and if you're lucky enough to work for an organisation like ours, then you've got the support to do that. There are so many ways you can get involved with initiatives at here and we’re always looking for brilliant, bright new colleagues who can make a positive difference.
Read Kate's professional profile
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