The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change recently advised that global carbon emissions must be cut within the coming twelve years to avoid runaway climate change.
The latest WWF Living Planet report sets out that we are the first generation to have a clear understanding of how overconsumption is decimating the natural world we rely on, and arguably the last generation to be able to do anything about it.
To enable the UK to prosper in an uncertain world we need to make the most of the opportunities the Government has outlined in the Industrial Strategy and the 25 Year Environment Plan.
How can business, government and society rethink resources for the 21st century to enable communities to thrive and the economy to prosper?
The Business in the Community ‘Waste to Wealth’ summit in London this week sets out to address these challenges. It includes an innovation zone, with a walk-through, demonstration ‘Circular Office’ created by BITC, PwC and other companies, to show how the humble office can generate demand for better products and ways of working.
A Circular Economy - Why it matters
In the face of a growing global population, finding smart ways to do more with less is an important problem for humanity to solve. The circular economy requires a change in mindset towards ‘materials stewardship’, focusing on the protection and renewal of resources. It’s a timely concept, as it will not only help nations and businesses to improve their resource resilience, but will foster economic growth, and create new jobs.
For decades, consumption has been built on a 'take-make-dispose' model. Now, innovative businesses are adopting 'circular' solutions, reducing material, water and carbon impacts.
“The circular economy is about rethinking everything, including business models themselves so that we can reduce consumption. It is a clever idea as it not only reduces the amount of raw materials needed for a growing global population to live vibrant healthy lives but can also reduce carbon emissions and water use during the production of the goods we all buy. But, it will only happen if every business plays its part. Even if we think that our individual footprint is not big enough to matter.”
Bridget Jackson, chief sustainability officer at PwC UK
Circular Economy Taskforce - Lessons Learned
PwC has been supporting Business in the Community’s Circular Office Initiative since it launched in 2017. It was inspired by PwC’s ten-year Going Circular Programme. We provide programme support, alongside other Circular Economy Taskforce members, and share the experiences from our ten year journey of Going Circular, to help mainstream circular practices more quickly and cheaply. Since its launch over 80 organisations have already signed up the the Circular Office Initiative.
PwC’s Lessons Learned publications are designed to share our experience of implementing our sustainability strategy, in order to allow others to learn from our successes – and our mistakes.
PwC’s going circular progress and achievements
PwC has been applying circular principles for over a decade. This encompasses collaboration to deliver circular buildings, circular operations and circular procurement, as well as encouraging circular lifestyles amongst our people.
In the last few years, we’ve been the first company to achieve the BREEAM offices ‘outstanding’ rating for sustainable buildings in no less than three different categories - new-build, retrofit and multi-tenanted buildings.
Since 2007, we’ve cut our energy consumption by 52%, moved to 100% renewable electricity in our controlled buildings and reduced our absolute total carbon emissions by 37% (whilst growing the business), saving over £20m in energy and offset costs.
Changing to other more circular economy ways of working has resulted in a 65% drop in paper usage, 39% less water consumption, and 44% less waste generated, whilst we now recycle over 90% of all materials used.
As we’ve renewed our real estate, we’ve chosen to fit-out our offices with furniture that’s circular:
We’ve refurbished thousands of task chairs at a fraction of the cost of buying new ones, and extending their lifespan by another ten years
We’ve adapted banks of lockers, keeping the outer metal case, and doubling the number of inner storage units, enabling us to accommodate a growing workforce in smaller space
We’ve re-upholstered soft seating to give it a new look whilst avoiding waste by reusing the wooden frames and padding.
Waste and the environment is a visible and symbolic workplace issue, which our staff have strong views on and expect the firm to tackle.
PwC provides ways for staff to adopt a more circular lifestyle:
Service Now allows employees to bring in an old unwanted laptop or phone, any day of the year, and PwC safely removes the data, and works with a partner to either refurbish the item for resale or take it apart so all the parts can be recycled
Annual Suit Donation Days encourage employees to bring in any smart, unwanted work-wear to donate to unemployed and disadvantaged people, as part of a programme to help them get into work
Our Social Co. restaurants offer plant-based menus everyday so that staff can keep healthy whilst reducing the carbon and water food-print of their food choices.
“Pioneering more sustainable ways of running our operations is aligned to PwC’s purpose - 'to build trust in society and solve important problems'. Our reputation as a responsible and sustainable business is key to our success and strong environmental credentials are also expected by our increasingly young workforce. We’re committed as a firm to pioneer new more sustainable ways of working to show that they are possible and to share our lessons with others, helping to accelerate change at a market level.”
Bridget Jackson, chief sustainability officer at PwC UK
So what next? PwC sets new, even more ambitious targets to 2022
We’ll maintain our zero waste to landfill status
We’ll maintain our reuse or recycling rate at over 90%, minimising the amount that is incinerated
We’ll reduce the amount of paper we consume (in tonnes) by 80% from a 2007 baseline (up from 50% target in 2017)
We’ll reduce the amount of total waste we generate (in tonnes) by 75% from a 2007 baseline (up from 50% target in 2017)
We’ll reduce the amount of water we consume (in cubic metres) by 50% from a 2007 baseline (up from our -39% achievement in 2017)
We’ll reduce our business travel emissions (tonnes CO2e) per employee by 33% against a 2007 baseline (versus -15% achievement in 2017)
We’ll reduce our total carbon emissions (tonnes CO2e) by 40% from a 2007 baseline in line with science based targets
More information on PwC’s going circular programme can be found here: PwC - Going Circular
Circular office innovations featured in the Waste to Wealth Innovation Zone can be found here: Waste to Wealth Innovations
At PwC, our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems. We’re a network of firms in 157 countries with more than 223,000 people who are committed to delivering quality in assurance, advisory and tax services. Find out more and tell us what matters to you by visiting us at www.pwc.com.
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