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Weekly Media Briefing


This week’s topics: 

Our Chief People Officer on return to offices and virtual communication - new data 

  • How will driverless cars impact insurance premiums?
  • Is the fashion industry stepping up or falling behind on its ESG responsibilities?

Return to offices and new data on virtual communication   

Insights released today show how we’re using virtual communication technology at PwC: 

  • Spontaneous video calls now account for near double the percentage of our total video calls, compared with pre-lockdown levels. 
  • In January 2020, 79% of our Google Meets (video calls) were planned, ie linked to a calendar invitation - with unscheduled conversations representing the other 21%. Spontaneous calls rose to 28% in April 2020, during the first lockdown, and settled at the current rate of around 40% of all video calls in July 2020.  
  • These unplanned conversations represent people deciding to join video calls to talk, collaborate, or share work in progress - an adaptation that might substitute deciding to pop for a coffee or into a meeting room, rather than a replacement for serendipitous water cooler moments. 
  • Camera use has also jumped significantly - in January 2020, only 24% of Meets had a video feed going. In April 2020, this figure rose to 61% and has stabilised at around 70% (higher in the UK than for our global network average of 44%). 
  • Phones were used for 1% of Meets in January this year - a dramatic drop from one third in January 2020. 
  • Direct messages and team chat rooms via Google Chat are another growing component of our virtual communication and how we form communities - with over 300,000 Chat rooms currently active across our global network a week. 

Ian Elliott, Chief People Officer at PwC UK, said: 

“Virtual communication is vital to how, when and where we work now, but we’re also seeing a real hunger to get offline and off mute to collaborate in person. When restrictions eased last summer, it was a couple of months before we had 6,000 people back in offices a day - this time we reached 7,000 a day within a week or so. The rise in camera use over the last couple of years reflects that desire to see people; spending time in the office is the natural extension.  

“The growth in spontaneous video calls is a reminder of how much we rely on each other to solve problems, tap into social intelligence, and learn - I want all of our people to have the opportunity to grow the personal networks that they can call on to do that. 

“We have four generations from so many different and diverse backgrounds navigating hybrid working for the first time in history - landing that isn’t just about what happens in the office or at client sites, or having the best technology, it’s about building relationships, trust, and inclusivity that extend beyond that.”

Is the fashion industry stepping up or falling behind on its ESG responsibilities?

Due to the manufacturing materials involved, the high dependence on labour and the global nature of the supply chain, the fashion industry is more exposed than many to ESG risks and rising expectations.

  • Consumers are increasingly influenced by retailers’ ESG behaviours and credentials. 52% say they are more eco-friendly than they were six months ago according to PwC’s latest Global consumer insights survey. Meanwhile, 49% of investors would sell their investment if a company was not showing enough action to address ESG issues, 44% of investors see ensuring worker health and safety as a priority, and 79% consider ESG risks and opportunities an important factor in investment decision making.
  • Along with increased environmental reporting and regulation requirements, the fashion industry faces increasing scrutiny around job safety and fair wages. Workplace standards demonstrate ESG criteria to stakeholders, and are crucial to building trust with employees. This is at a time when 75% of UK CEOs say they are focused on building greater trust with employees, according to our 25th Annual CEO Survey
  • On the regulation side, the plastic packaging tax in the UK will come into effect in April 2022 and will charge £200 per tonne of plastic which has less than 30% recycled plastic manufactured or imported into the UK. Online retail and the beauty industry may be particularly impacted by the tax, which has been designed to incentivise the use of recycled material in the production of plastic packaging. Through this new tax, the use of recycled plastic in packaging could increase by around 40%. This is equal to carbon savings of nearly 200,000 tonnes in 2022 to 2023, based on current carbon factors. 

Amal Larhlid, ESG Leader for tax, legal and people at PwC UK, comments:

Positively, we’re seeing more fashion brands focus on their ESG strategy as they explore transforming to a circular economy and rise to the challenge of consumer demands. Investment and regulation trends are on their side when trying to achieve greater sustainability and fairness. Climate tech solutions are critical to fighting climate change and can provide innovative solutions for the industry. Over US$222bn has been invested in climate tech between 2013 and 2021 but more is needed to meet global commitments.

  • Alongside a drive in private investment, the UK government has dedicated almost £5 billion a year in funding to help UK businesses become greener. Fashion manufacturers and businesses should be making sure their industry is drawing in the relevant investment and accessing available funds to support their own ESG transformation and to avoid falling behind other industries. This is an opportunity to finance projects which find innovative ways to make their products more circular, and that support their supply chains to be ESG compliant.

Driverless cars may mean safer roads but short-term premiums increases as insurers weigh up the pros and cons of autonomous vehicles  

Mohammad Khan, Leader of General Insurance at PwC UK, said:

The positive potential of driverless cars is huge with human error being largely factored out, road accidents will decrease exponentially, resulting in safer roads - clearly a huge benefit.

  • Driverless cars will choose the most efficient routes and be able to provide real time information, with a potential lessening of traffic jams and better impact on the environment as a result.
  • However, the transition period may see a clash between driverless and driven cars with an uptick in collisions, which could impact premiums. 
  • Risk may also shift from the individual driver to the manufacturer as it may be deemed that liability, due to the nature of the accident if it was for example due to a software error, sits with them. 
  • The future looks exciting for driverless technology - however, it may take years before they are ubiquitous, meaning that insurers have the opportunity to prepare for the change now.

Something to listen to: UK CEOs are approaching a tipping point for purpose. With their actions and decisions under the microscope, how do they use this as an opportunity to showcase the role business plays across society? Listen to a candid discussion between PwC Chairman & Senior Partner Kevin Ellis and Alex Baldock, CEO of Currys, in the latest Business in Focus podcast

Something to watch: In this webcast, our tax policy and regulation leader Jon Richardson explores the impacts of the recent announcements from the OECD on their proposed international tax framework and new global minimum tax rate (Pillar 2), and what the US Policy announcements on tax could mean for businesses.

Something to read:  Providing memorable experiences for customers is no longer just ‘nice to have’. This article, by PwC’s Experience Consulting Leader Tom Adams explores how exceptional experiences can create trust and deliver responsible growth for customers, citizens, patients and students.

About PwC

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Nicola Thorogood

Manager, media relations, PwC United Kingdom

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