As a services business, our operations require limited natural resources compared with businesses in many other sectors, such as manufacturing. But we still spend more than £600m a year on goods and services and so want to do what we can to reduce the impact of the natural resources we consume.
Our main focus is on our paper and water consumption, so we set ambitious ten-year targets to halve our consumption of both by 2017, decoupling our impacts from our growth. Since 2007, we’ve already reduced our paper consumption by 60%, exceeding our target, and cut our water consumption by 38% as shown in the graph below.
To minimise the environmental impact of our resource consumption, we:
Clearly, the fewer resources we use, the lower our material costs, so managing our operations to reduce our consumption presents a good commercial opportunity for us.
Paper is one of our most significant consumables and we’ve been working to reduce the associated environmental impacts for many years.
First, we’ve invested in equipment that reduces usage. Over a number of years, we removed all 2,250 desktop printers, in favour of centrally-located and energy-efficient multifunctional devices (MFDs). These can handle network printing, photocopying and scanning, thereby reducing embedded carbon in our equipment, plus we lease them so that the manufacturer can replace components or upgrade them over time, without the need to dispose of the whole unit. MFDs also use less toner, and are defaulted only to print on both sides of the page, significantly reducing the quantity of paper we need. Additionally, we've set our MFDs up in a way that means our people can only print if they enter a unique PIN number into the device. This increases data security and cuts paper use further by eliminating unintentional printing.
Second, we’ve bought 100% recycled paper for many years and sent our paper waste to be recycled. This year, however, we’ve improved on this and transitioned to a new, zero-waste, low carbon facility that can recycle our office paper waste into a quality high enough that we can buy it back and use it ourselves. It means that our paper to be recycled up to 20 times – seven times more than traditional paper recycling and obviating the need for virgin materials.
Finally, we’re increasingly using information on digital format, reducing the need for paper at all. We’ve invested in systems that make it easier for our people to access documents in a digital format and encourage them to avoid printing unless really necessary. And, we’re exploring how we can move to digital formats for more types of information. For example, in 2015 we were the first company to ever produce its annual report in an online format.
Although we don't have a large direct water footprint, we're still global signatories to the United National Global Compact's (UNGC) CEO Water Mandate. That's because we recognise the risks and opportunities water holds in the global marketplace and in other communities where the PwC network of firms operate.
In the UK specifically, we monitor our water consumption and have run various initiatives to reduce water usage, such as the replacement of nine litre toilet cisterns with six litre cisterns across our properties, installing waterless urinals, as well as taps and showers with automatic shut-off. We’ve also made significant water savings by installing improved condenser water systems across our real estate.
We look for ways to reduce material, wherever we can. For example, we reuse laptops that are returned when employees leave the firm, if they are within the warranty period; we only hand out IT accessories (mice, CD players etc.) on request, encouraging our people to use those already issued if suitable; we encourage reuse of stationery items that are no longer needed (arch lever files, staplers etc.); we work with suppliers to eliminate unnecessary packaging; and we reuse furniture in different offices across our real estate portfolio to extend their life as long as possible within our business.
We also look to ensure as much our waste as possible can be reused or recycled, as part of our overarching Going Circular programme.