Honoree: Norton Rose Fulbright

Horatio Nelson was the one-eyed, one-armed scourge of the French and Spanish fleets who met his heroic demise at Trafalgar. Now, the eponymously christened Lord Nelson—a tall ship launched in 1986, battles disability and prejudice on the same high seas once ruled by her namesake.

The three-masted barque is run by the Jubilee Sailing Trust (JST), a charity which aims to promote the integration of people of all physical abilities through the challenge of tall ship sailing.

JST commissioned the construction of the Lord Nelson (and sister ship Tenacious) to offer both able-bodied and disabled people the chance to sail together—and in the process, to overcome misconceptions about what all aboard are capable of: in other words focusing on what everyone can do, and not what they cannot. Since launch, Lord Nelson has taken 24,000 people to sea, almost of half of whom are disabled and 5,000 are wheelchair users.

Last October, Lord Nelson set off on the Norton Rose Sail the World Challenge, a voyage which, when completed in September 2014, will see the vessel having visited 30 countries and clocking 50,000 miles beneath her keel. In passing, she will have become the first disabled-accessible ship to round Cape Horn.

Norton Rose’s association with Lord Nelson and JST was triggered after a member of staff joined the Tenacious on a day-sail. Within two months, the law firm had become the lead sponsor of the 2012-2014 voyage. The firm now provides not only financial support, but logistical help with aspects of the challenge, awareness raising and marketing assistance. It is also sponsoring individuals with disabilities over six of the voyage’s 10 legs.

The firm says that its employees—at all levels—have really taken JST to their hearts. Staff run in-house competitions (the winners of which join the ship on a leg), and Norton Rose’s international offices have worked to engage local disability organizations to also get involved.

In its submission, the firm said that this was the first time that it had taken on a CSR cause across all the regions where it has a presence, but that the 2012 Paralympic Games “had brought disabled achievement into sharp focus,” and that the Challenge represented “a thrilling way of passing that torch on.” An admirable effort, say we.