Plant-based food at PwC

Setting the scene

Greenhouse gas emissions are changing our climate, causing extreme weather events and impacting people, ecosystems and economies. In March 2023, the IPCC continued its warning that climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health, with a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all. But they also highlight that there are many options available for reducing emission-intensive consumption, including through behavioural and lifestyle changes, with co-benefits for societal wellbeing.

The IPCC also reports that the global food system accounts for 42% of global greenhouse gas emissions, of which livestock farming is a major contributor - meaning it will not be possible to keep global warming within 1.5°C without tackling food system-related emissions. The World Resources Institute State of Climate Action 2023 Report recommends a shift to healthier, more sustainable diets by lowering per capita consumption of meat from cows, goats and sheep to approximately two servings per week across high-consuming regions (the Americas, Europe and Oceania) by 2030.

What we did

I'm taking part in the Veganuary Workplace Challenge #VeganuaryWorkplaceChallenge

At PwC UK, we have participated in the Veganuary Workplace Challenge for six consecutive years, and were the first major employer to promote the challenge to our people. Veganuary is a charity aiming to support and inspire people to try a vegan diet for 31 days each January and beyond. The campaign is part of our wider sustainability strategy, part of which aims to accelerate a just transition by compelling our people to act sustainably, and play their part in addressing the climate and nature crisis.

In the first year, we focused on building awareness and interest. We promoted delicious, healthy, vegetarian or vegan ‘hero’ dishes in a campaign called “Celebrate the seasons”. We shared recipe cards so people could replicate the meals at home, and we ran lunchtime games for our people to improve their understanding of the connection between plant-based diets and environmental issues.

Through the Workplace Challenge, we invite our people to step out of their comfort zone and pledge to try plant-based for the month - whether that involves trying one new plant-based recipe a week, or fully committing to a vegan diet for the month. Everyone is welcome to take part - no matter the level of commitment or experience.

Alongside firm-wide communications and an active social media presence, we provide information, tips and offers around plant-based eating, and have established an informal online vegan and vegetarian community where people can connect with like-minded colleagues and share their experiences with plant-based food. We have also worked with our caterers to run chef masterclasses and produce plant-based cook-along videos; held livestreams sessions with plant-based brands; and ran competitions and social media challenges - all helping to boost support and engagement around the campaign.

Our annual Veganuary campaigns have served to ignite, and subsequently boost, our people’s interest in plant-based diets. We work alongside our on-site catering service provider, who have transformed their everyday offering through:

  • Inspiring and training chefs to rethink recipes to include more plant-based ingredients
  • Showcasing meat-free options on menus
  • Signposting plant-based options well, making them front and centre
  • Doubling up, providing plant-based equivalents for popular dishes as easy alternatives
  • Labelling vegan and vegetarian dishes clearly and consistently
  • Offering incentives, especially during promotional periods, to encourage people to try plant-based meals
  • Creating plant-based food ‘theatre’, with pop up stands to generate interest
  • Rolling out oat milk coffee machines and oat milk in fridges across our offices

We’ve committed to the overarching goal of supporting our people to adopt more climate friendly and nutritious diets. We’ve provided inspiration and practical tips for cooking plant-based dishes, reducing food waste and growing vegetables at home as part of our ‘Sustainable Living at Home’ programme. And we ensure that plant-based options remain prominent among a number of catering innovations in our offices.

Making a difference

The campaign has grown year on year, with over 2,400 sign ups since 2019. Our people have welcomed the improvement in the quality and choice of healthy meals, and the opportunity to take action in line with their values - whether health-related, environmental, or ethical.

We’ve seen a real shift in the uptake of and attitudes towards plant-based food, with the percentage of plant-based food sold in our catered offices rising from 19% in January 2021 to 39% in January 2023. Of those who took part in the 2023 Veganuary Workplace Challenge, the number who identified as ‘meat-lovers’ reduced by 22% and those who identified as vegan increased by 5%. In addition, 79% of participants stated they would continue eating a more plant-based diet as a result of taking part in the 2023 challenge.

We’ve received great feedback from our people, with the majority of participants telling us that they’d take part again in subsequent years and others commenting that they are proud of “the effort and leadership PwC puts into this”.

We estimate that we’ve reduced the associated environmental footprint too. The average shift in diet reported by our people as a result of Veganuary is estimated to be 0.2 tonnes CO2e per person per year, or 146 tonnes CO2e across all participants (equivalent to 39% of our Scope 1 emissions in the same year).

Building on our successes and learnings throughout the Veganuary Workplace Challenge, and in the spirit of PwC’s worldwide commitment to achieve Net Zero by 2030, we'll continue to embed plant-based food into our catering propositions to help our people establish new habits that can enhance their wellbeing, and accelerate the transition to a more climate and nature positive economy.

I'm taking part in the Veganuary Workplace Challenge #VeganuaryWorkplaceChallenge

Contact us

Marissa Thomas

Marissa Thomas

Partner, PwC United Kingdom

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