By Melissa Perkin.

Arbitration users have become well-accustomed to remote hearings such as procedural hearings by telephone, or witness cross-examination being undertaken by video-link in recent years. The technology to conduct remote hearings in domestic and international arbitration has been available and has been used for many years. The conduct of fully remote hearings in international arbitration is, however, something that has been relatively rare until now. One of the many flow-on effects of the COVID-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions has been to accelerate the acceptance of green practices in dispute resolution, such as greater use of videoconferencing for hearings, as well as acceptance of electronic document management in preference to hard copy.

However, in order for these behavioural changes to have the desired impact of reducing the overall carbon impact of arbitral proceedings, they need to be implemented in a sustainable way.

The New Zealand International Arbitration Centre (NZIAC) has a well-developed Environmental Sustainability Policy, proposing ways in which arbitration (and mediation) matters can be conducted so as to minimise their carbon footprint.

Some key parts of the policy relating to the conduct of arbitration matters include to:

  • Use electronic communications and correspondence over paper form, unless deemed strictly necessary.
  • Use video or telephone conferencing for case management conferences and hearings where deemed appropriate and acceptable by parties.
  • Use our case management platform for receipt, management and organisation of materials.
  • Maintain electronic case files, instead of hard copy files.

Since 2018, the NZIAC Arbitration Rules have made provision for case management and hearings to be conducted remotely using technology to enable alignment with these environmental sustainability goals. It is pleasing to see that green practice is now becoming more widely accepted as the hallmark for responsible conduct of international arbitration proceedings.