PwC UK has cut its overall carbon footprint by nearly a third (29%) over the past 10 years in the UK by rethinking how it runs and uses its offices, piloting new technologies and changing behaviours.
This reduction has largely been achieved by the firm reducing the carbon footprint associated with energy consumption in its buildings by more than three quarters (77%), at a time when PwC’s business grew by 44%.
PwC has released the report Acting on carbon: Our 10 year journey to share lessons learnt from all the initiatives undertaken in order to reach the 2017 carbon ambitions it set in 2007 - to reduce carbon emissions by 25%, hold carbon emissions from travel flat and reduce energy consumption by half.
After exceeding its 2017 goals, the firm has today announced new targets for 2022 to: reduce its total carbon by 40%, procure 100% renewable electricity and further reduce travel, all while continuing to grow the business.
This comes as climate change is high on the agenda at the World Economic Forum in Davos. PwC’s Annual CEO Survey shows that 57% of UK CEOs see climate change as a threat to their company’s growth.
Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner at PwC, said:
“By setting clear targets we’ve been able to make a significant difference to our carbon footprint over the past 10 years. Being very clear on what we wanted to achieve has allowed us to challenge ourselves to do things differently - from how we light, heat and cool our buildings, to how we design and use our office spaces, and how we work. We’ve made good progress, but recognise that we’ve also made some mistakes along the way and that’s why we’re keen to share our experience.
“Along our 10 year journey we’ve learnt a lot and have been able to pioneer new, environmentally-friendly technologies, which are now used more widely across the industry. Reducing our carbon footprint has also had financial benefits, showing that economic success and doing the right thing can go hand-in-hand. Our people and clients expect us to continue to lead the way, which is why we’re announcing new ambitious targets to reduce our carbon footprint further in the next five years.”
PwC recognised that in order to reduce its carbon footprint, it needed to start by reducing the amount of energy used in its buildings as this was its largest source of carbon emissions. The firms’ energy consumption today is 50% lower than it was in 2007 due to its combined approach, focusing on four main areas:
Operating differently: This included relatively simple initiatives such as turning lights off out of hours and switching to renewable electricity contracts.
Redesigning offices: Designing flexible working spaces and ‘hotdesking’ means that less office space is needed, reducing energy needs.
Refurbishing offices: Larger offices have been refurbished or built to reach the highest standards in sustainable offices. Three PwC UK offices have been recognised by BREEAM with the first ‘outstanding’ rating in their category.
Investing in new technology: The firm has piloted new low-carbon technologies, including using tri-generators in its offices that run on used cooking oil. This has not only helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but has helped to bring these technologies to the mainstream.
The second largest aspect of PwC’s carbon emissions was business travel. The firm set itself the goal of holding business travel flat, but has in fact managed to achieve a 4% reduction since 2007 whilst growing business revenues by 44%. This has been mainly through cutting the number of internal flights and investing in collaborative technologies to allow people to connect online from anywhere, anytime.
Other initiatives across the firm include changing the type of materials used in the business, and achieving zero waste to landfill since 2012. PwC has recycling stations on every floor of its offices and this has allowed it to send 86% of its waste to reuse or recycling and reduce waste volumes by nearly half. Today, waste represents only 0.21% of PwC’s carbon footprint.
Bridget Jackson, head of corporate sustainability at PwC, said:
“The role that businesses can play in limiting the impacts of climate change shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s encouraging to see so many organisations making bold commitments to decarbonise their operations.
"We haven’t got all the answers, but we hope that our journey helps and inspires other businesses to accelerate their own carbon emissions reduction programmes. It’s only by sharing best practice and lessons learnt that we’ll collectively be able to contribute to delivering the Sustainable Development Goals.”
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