The last ten years have been important ones for the climate change agenda. Certainly, there has been growing momentum behind a collective will to tackle greenhouse gas emissions, including the international climate agreement in Paris in 2015. Yet, action to reduce emissions has been slower than hoped, and hurricanes, flooding and wildfires have almost now become the norm.
Clearly, more needs to be done, and action to maintain carbon emissions within ‘safe’ levels has never been so urgent. Indeed, this is borne out by the fact that the World Economic Forum 2017 global risk register has rated extreme weather risk as the most significant issue for businesses everywhere around the world, ahead of interstate conflict, international migration and fiscal crises.
PwC has been working to reduce the carbon emissions associated with its operations for that same decade. With a rolling real estate programme, this has centred on innovation – collaborating with other, visionary companies to identify, test and deploy new methods. This has included operating differently, consolidating floorspace and buildings, upgrading our building stock, and investing in new technology, as well as switching to renewable energy sources.
Led by the facilities team, and sponsored by the Executive Board, the programme also extended to containment of our business travel, especially for internal purposes, and efforts to reduce the amount of materials we use and waste we generate.
Each of these initiatives has played a part in helping to reduce our carbon footprint, and save us money.
At the end of 2017, we’ve reduced the carbon emissions associated with our energy sources (scope 1 & 2) by 77%, since 2007. And, when we add in the greenhouse gases arising from our business travel and material consumption (i.e. scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon emissions), we’ve still managed to decouple our footprint from our economic growth, cutting carbon by 29% - and exceeding our 25% ten year target – whilst growing our business revenues by 44% over the same timeframe.
This has delivered lots of benefits. Hundreds of companies came to visit and learn about our green buildings. Our environmental performance has engendered pride amongst our people. We also estimate that we saved over £20m in energy costs since 2007.
In addition, our carbon intensity (tonnes CO2e per £ revenue) has dropped 6.4% year-on-year, which compares favourably to the reductions of the UK and G20 over the same period. It demonstrates that real and meaningful cuts can be made, largely within business-as-usual budgets and resources, if companies have the will to try.
We’ve documented what we did and what we’ve learned into a 28 page ‘Acting on Carbon Lessons Learned’ document, in the hope that it will help accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy, on behalf of businesses and communities everywhere.
Chief Sustainability Officer, PwC United Kingdom