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Annual report 2017: Our corporate impact

Sustainability strategy

Assessing our performance

Building on the work we did between 2007 and 2012, our 2013 to 2017 sustainability strategy has been based around two key principles:

Being a catalyst for change - using our skills, voice, and relationships to work with others and become “part of the solution” through activities that influence change in the marketplace, with clients and suppliers. 

Doing the right thing - advancing an active agenda of sustainability initiatives which create value for us and for our stakeholders.

We’ve focused on four key areas: environmental stewardship, community involvement; responsible business through our supply chain; and workplace and diversity. We hold ourselves accountable in each area with an extensive set of measures and challenging targets. We publish our progress against them each year in our sustainability scorecard and corporate sustainability website.

This year we’re reporting on our five-year results against these targets, and we’re really pleased with what we’ve achieved. However, there’s always room to do more so we’ve also developed a new framework for the next stage of our journey. We’ll be reporting against it, from 2018.

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Stakeholders and materiality

We use a materiality matrix to help us identify the areas of focus for our sustainability strategy. First developed in 2011, in consultation with key stakeholders, it's aligned with our purpose and principal risks, and has helped us prioritise our investment of time and resources. It's also shaped our approach to sustainability reporting. Over the years, we’ve developed, assured and reported metrics for the most material areas, grouping them by our four focus areas.

We review the matrix with our stakeholders regularly to make sure it remains relevant. And in 2017, we undertook a more extensive exercise as a key input to the development of our new Responsible Business framework.

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Doing the right thing

We believe in being a responsible business and doing the right thing, for the good of our business and our stakeholders. This includes acting in a way that upholds social and environmental standards. 

Our community engagement, for example, has focused on four main areas, with our schools programmes aiming to give children a good start in life; our social entrepreneurs’ club helping start-ups addressing social and environmental challenges; and our team volunteering helping our people develop their environmental awareness. We also have extensive fundraising programmes for a range of partner charities via the PwC Foundation.

From an environmental perspective, our aim has been to decouple our environmental impacts from our business growth, and to pioneer sustainable solutions, focusing our carbon emissions, resource consumption and waste. We’ve also offset residual carbon emissions at the end of each year, ensuring we've been carbon neutral since 2007. 

We report our results against the targets for our 2013-2017 strategy below.

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Catalyst for change

We use our knowledge, skills, voice, and relationships to influence change in the marketplace, collaborating with clients, NGOs and suppliers to pioneer new ways of doing this.

Over the last five years we’ve achieved this in several ways, from trialling new low carbon technologies in our offices, to launching our new Responsible Technology approach this year. We’ve also promoted sustainability in our supply chain though our ‘Going circular’ programme, by encouraging our suppliers to reduce their carbon emissions, by committing to ‘buy social’; and by responding comprehensively to the Modern Slavery Act

In addition, our Sustainability & Climate Change team have been working with the United Nations to develop new tools and reporting protocols to help business assess their contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We have used these to set out our own contribution to the SDGs, prioritising them and reporting our progress against each.

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Our impact

Measuring and being transparent about our performance against our targets - both positive and negative - has been a key principle underpinning our sustainability strategy.  It also means we can meet the growing demands of a range of stakeholders for detailed sustainability information.

We approach our reporting using the same best practice standards that we recommend to our clients. So as well as assuring and reporting on our non-financial performance in our sustainability scorecard and on our corporate sustainability website, we also report the estimated financial value of our broader contribution to society, using our Total Impact Measurement & Management (TIMM) framework.  We’ve used it for five years to measure the economic, tax, social and environmental impacts that reflect the outputs of our business model.

Our sustainability performance has also been recognised through a range of benchmarks and awards.

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Our stories: Corporate impact

As a responsible business, we aim to run our business in line with our purpose - to build trust in society and solve important problems.

Read more about how sustainability values underpin our work.

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Environmental performance

Back in 2012, we set some challenging environmental targets for 2017, against our 2007 baseline: to reduce our total carbon emissions by 25% and hold our travel related carbon footprint flat, whilst halving our resource consumption and waste impacts.

We’re delighted with our results. Our carbon emissions are down by 29%, overall. And we’ve achieved our targets for business travel as well as energy and paper consumption, even though our headcount has grown by 13%. In other, less material, areas we haven't hit the targets, but are still pleased with the overall progress that having stretch goals has helped us to achieve.

Together, these reductions have helped us to save approximately £25 million in operational costs over that time.

Find out more about our ten year environmental performance in our non-financial scorecard.

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Our 5 year environmental target: Carbon

Our target was to reduce our total carbon emissions by 25% by 2017 against our 2007 baseline. Achieving a 5% drop this year brings our total emissions reduction to -29%, significantly exceeding our goal.

We’ve primarily delivered this through sustained investment in reducing the energy we consume in our offices, switching to a 100% renewable electricity provider, and addressing non-essential business travel.

Additionally, we’ve offset our emissions, as reported in each year since 2007, to achieve carbon neutrality.

Business travel is the largest source of our carbon emissions – as our work requires us to travel to our clients. However, we’ve reduced our travel emissions by 4% since 2007, exceeding our ambitious target to hold them flat over that period. This is in spite of significant growth in the business over that time, and more international work.

We’ve largely achieved this by focusing on avoidable travel, and promoting online meetings and other collaborative technologies as viable alternatives.

To support our target of holding emissions from business travel flat, we’ve run regular campaigns to raise awareness and encourage the uptake of online meeting technology as an alternative to non-essential travel.

This has helped us to reach 7.1 hosted meetings per person per year, which reflects the widespread adoption of collaborative technologies across the firm. We’re slightly short of our target of 10, however, as we’ve recently introduced a number of new technologies for which we’re currently unable to measure usage data.

5 year Target
5 year Target
July 2017
Our 5 year environmental target: Resources

The energy we use in our offices has been a significant contributor to our carbon footprint, so we set a target to reduce it by 50% between 2007 and 2017. Our energy consumption dropped again this year, helping us to hit our target.

In that time, we’ve invested extensively in renewing and consolidating our buildings across the country, and pioneering new technologies and ways of working. Two of our offices have been recognised as among the greenest in the UK.

This year our paper consumption has fallen again, to 64% below our 2007 baseline, remaining significantly ahead of our target of -50%.

As well as encouraging a greater use of digital documents and online collaboration, we’ve delivered this reduction through replacing desk-side printers with multifunctional devices. These default to double-sided printing, and also won’t print without a staff security pass being swiped, eliminating unintentional printing while also improving information security.

Although it's our least material environmental impact, we set a -50% target for our water consumption from our 2007 baseline. Our result, of -40% is shy of that, but nevertheless is a great improvement, given our headcount growth.

We’ve achieved this reduction by investing in new plant and technology in our offices. Although we’ve reached the limit of what is currently commercially viable, we’ll continue to monitor for opportunities to improve in the future.

5 year Target
5 year Target
July 2017
Our 5 year environmental target: Waste

We’ve reduced our day-to-day office waste by 61% since 2007, a great achievement given the increase in our headcount. But, a periodic surge in the recycling of our old archived files this year means that the total waste reduction is 46% – just shy of our 50% reduction target.

We’ve achieved these reductions by progressively adopting the principles of the ‘circular economy’ – reducing consumption, increasing the proportion of materials we divert to reuse or recycling, and exploring ‘circular’ solutions for the products and services that we purchase.

We achieved ‘zero waste to landfill’ in 2012 for all the waste generated on our main offices floors and from our on-site catering. We’ve maintained this status ever since. Any materials not recovered are sent to incineration which generates energy.

Details about how we did this, and our lessons learned, are available on our corporate sustainability website.

Having achieved zero waste to landfill in 2012, we set an aspirational target to recycle 100% of our waste by 2017, challenging ourselves to think differently about the materials we use.

We’ve made great progress since then, recycling 86% this year compared to 55% in 2007. We’ve largely achieved it through replacing desk-side bins with central recycling hubs, substituting unsustainable items with recyclable alternatives, and campaigns to encourage our people to segregate more of their waste. Much of the shortfall stems from non-recyclable items such as composite food packaging. We’re engaging stakeholders to identify potential solutions for this, but expect it to take time.

5 year Target
5 year Target
July 2017

Empowering communities: our performance

Empowering communities - our approach

Working with the local communities around our offices has been central to our culture for many years. Our programmes are designed to maximise the value of our activities - for both our community partners and our business - by sharing our professional skills to drive positive change, and using our measurement skills to measure the impact. Five years ago, we set some long term targets for the key areas of focus, shown here, which we’re delighted to have exceeded. Over that time, we’ve volunteered more than 300,000 hours of which over 50% have been ‘skills based’, with our programmes benefitting more than 85,000 people, and a community contribution that totals £37m. You can find more about our community involvement

25 schools supported

Over the past five years, we’ve met our goal to support the students, staff, and governors in 25 schools across the UK through our “whole school approach”. This offered schools a holistic suite of support, including mentoring, employability skills workshops, and enterprise skills sessions, which have had a significant impact on students. 74% of them told us their job readiness had increased as a result of our programmes, and 75% said they developed their employability and workplace skills. 81% felt we had improved their business awareness.

485 social enterprises enabled

Building on the success of our joint-venture social enterprise Brigade, our 2017 target was to support 250 social entrepreneurs to address social and environmental challenges through the PwC Social Entrepreneurs Club, established in 2012.

In fact, over the past five years we’ve supported 485 social enterprises, including Brigade, with a current Club membership of 294. The Club aims to help social entrepreneurs make connections, develop their skills, and increase their societal impact. We’ve delivered this through networking, coaching, masterclasses and online learning, as well as mentoring and annual awards. 87% of members say that the Club has had a beneficial impact on their business. We’re also founding members of Social Enterprise UK’s ‘Buy Social’ corporate challenge, aiming to give Club members and other social enterprises greater access to our supply chain. In 2017, we spent £1.5 million with social enterprises.

5,235 environmental volunteers

Since 2012, 5,235 of our people have participated in team volunteering, working with six key environmental NGOs on conservation work, beach cleaning and woodland management projects. As well as making tangible improvements to the local environment at sites chosen by the partners, we’ve increased our people’s awareness of important environmental issues and the impact they can personally make both at work and at home, by integrating formal learning into this programme.

Post-volunteering surveys revealed that 53% of our volunteers subsequently changed at least one ‘behaviour’, in particular reducing their energy consumption and increasing their recycling. Environmental behaviours are notoriously hard to change, so we’re delighted with these results.

£3.2m+ raised for PwC Foundation charities

In 2014, we launched the PwC Foundation’s “Race for £3 million”, to support six strategic charity partners - Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer Scotland, Beyond Food (part of our joint-venture social enterprise, Brigade), Groundwork UK, National Literacy Trust and Wellbeing of Women. Over the past three years, our people have participated in hundreds of fundraising activities for the Foundation, including the PwC Games, Ride the Nation, scaling the heights of Kilimanjaro, and donating through payroll, to exceed our target, and reach more than £3.2m. We’ve made a big difference with our chosen charities in that time, helping them to deliver new programmes or expand existing ones and collectively reach over 20,000 beneficiaries.

We spend




suppliers each year

Running a responsible supply chain

Our business can only be as sustainable as the goods and services we purchase from our suppliers. We spend more than £650m with suppliers each year, so their performance can impact our ability to build and sustain trust. Our ‘total impact’ analysis also shows that the environmental impacts from our supply chain are over 160 times those of of our direct operations. So, as part of our overall sustainability strategy, we’ve engaged with our top 100 suppliers - who account for the majority of our contracted spend - on all aspects of their sustainability.

Click through to see our results.

Reducing our impact by asking our suppliers to measure and manage their greenhouse gas emissions

Key suppliers reporting to CDP

2017 response
2017 target

Key suppliers reporting GHG reduction targets

2017 target
2017 response

Key suppliers reporting GHG reduction

2017 response
For more detail about our metrics and baseline data please see our sustainability scorecard
Promoting sustainability through our suppliers

Key suppliers assessed by PwC sustainability survey

2017 response
2017 target

Key suppliers with a Human Rights policy

2017 target
2017 response

Buying from social enterprises


Collaborating for a circular economy

Going Circular microsite
For more detail about our metrics and baseline data please see our sustainability scorecard
Partnering for long-term sustainability success

Key suppliers with sustainability
in commercial arrangements

2017 response
2017 target

PwC average supplier
payment days

2017 response
Ongoing target
<30 days
For more detail about our metrics and baseline data please see our sustainability scorecard
We’ve made strong progress in our supply chain sustainability programme over the last five years, as our ambitious targets help us improve in all areas.
In particular, we’re pleased with the advancements we’ve made from our baseline in engaging our key suppliers on sustainability issues, and the number now reporting their carbon emissions.

In other areas, although we’ve continued to improve, there’s still more to do. We’ve not yet met our target for the number of our suppliers with carbon emission reduction targets. And we need to continue building relevant sustainability requirements into our commercial arrangements, as they renew. Finally, we expect more of our suppliers to report on their human rights policies in future, as their awareness increases.

With ongoing programmes for carbon reduction, circular economy, social enterprise and human rights, our supply chain is a key channel for improving our environmental and social impacts. As we move into the next stage of our responsible business strategy it will remain a key area of focus for us.

Our contribution to the UK economy

We use our unique Total Impact Measurement & Management (or TIMM) framework to value our positive contribution to the economy and society, and compare it against the negative impact of our business on the environment through our operational, supply chain, and wider impacts.

Here are our 2017 results.

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Our new responsible business framework

Raising our sights to 2022

Our business and the context we operate in have changed a lot since we set our strategy for 2013 to 2017. So, we’ve refreshed our framework, and identified eight key ways in which we can make a positive impact for our business and society. Over the coming five years, from 2018 to 2022, we intend to drive these outcomes in a more integrated way, through our client work, our core operations, our supply chain and our community engagement. And, since they align to the Sustainable Development Goals that are the most relevant for our business, they should also help to tackle the important problems that governments around the world have prioritised.

Over the next year we’ll align our non-financial scorecard and reporting to this new Responsible Business framework.

Work with purpose
We believe we can make a big impact through our client work if we embed our purpose - ‘to build trust in society and solve important problems’ - into everything we do. This approach reinforces our role in creating trust in the capital markets and helping clients contribute to society, through their success. But ‘working with purpose’ also means using our research and thought capital to play a positive role in exploring the future of tax, the future of assurance and the future of work, as well as fostering inclusive growth and shaping an agenda that delivers sustainable development. ← Back to overview
Future skills
Our focus on future skills is about ensuring our workforce, and society, are equipped for the future of work. In a period of such profound change, this means not only attracting and retaining the best people in our business, but also appreciating skills diversity, and anticipating and identifying the skills needed in the future world of work. We will play a positive role in ensuring people can adapt to a rapidly changing world, with a particular focus on developing their digital skills and mind-sets suitable for the 21st century, in our workforce and through our community programmes, too. ← Back to overview
Social inclusion
Reducing inequality by promoting diversity and social mobility is a key goal for government, nationally and internationally. Diversity also ensures our business can access the best talent.
Our focus in the next five year period builds on our long-standing programmes to enhance gender, BME and other types of diversity in our workforce, and will extend to helping people from social mobility cold-spots and other under-represented groups to join PwC and prosper. It also extends to our community work with schools and social enterprises, giving better life chances to disadvantaged groups and contributing to better cohesion in society. ← Back to overview
Health & wellbeing
As people are central to our business model, their health and wellbeing is critical. Our future focus on this topic will build on long-standing programmes to emphasise our people’s mental and physical wellbeing, as well as updating our approach to allow for the technologically enabled era. We’ll also extend our support for good health and wellbeing to society more broadly, through our local community and charity related activities. ← Back to overview
Circular economy
We’ve had a programme to reduce our material consumption and increase the reuse and recycling of our waste for many years, and we’re proud of our results. As the ‘circular economy’ becomes a more mainstream goal for government and businesses, we’re renewing our commitment to help transition to it. So, we’ll focus on identifying circular solutions we can lease or buy - such as products made with recycled content or which are designed for longevity, disassembly, recycling or reuse. This will also help us operate in line with responsible consumption and production principles. ← Back to overview
Low carbon economy
Following the Paris Climate Accord of 2015, there is a global imperative to move to clean energy and to take action on climate. So, having reduced our absolute carbon emissions by 29% over the past ten years, we’re committing to go further reduce our carbon impacts, in line with science based targets. This will be driven by more action on the carbon emissions from our buildings and travel, and a transition towards 100% renewable and self-generated energy. Given the additional environmental impact of our supply chain, we’ll continue to engage our suppliers for reductions too. ← Back to overview
Fair business
It’s part of our culture to ‘work together’ and to ‘care’, and being fair in how we do business is important for both our reputation and our ability to access the best talent and service provision. At it’s core, this priority is about partnering for success, and includes how we pay our people and suppliers; our responsibility to uphold standards in our supply chain, including action to uphold human rights; and contributing to the communities in which we operate. ← Back to overview
Trusted business
The trust of our stakeholders and the wider public is critical to our business. So our commitment to earn our reputation by being transparent in the way we operate, by promoting the highest standards in ethics and integrity, by having effective governance, and by upholding information security. It also extends to new areas such as the way we approach technology, acknowledging the need to demonstrate leadership in applying it in a responsible way. ← Back to overview
Work with purpose in our client work
Future skills
Social inclusion
Health and wellbeing
Circular economy
Low carbon economy
Fair business
Trusted business
Click here to explore how what we do brings our strategy to life
Our new strategy filter shows how our strategy has come to life in FY17.
The five key components of our strategy are: delivering exceptional client value; sustainable, profitable growth; empowering our people; technology enabled; leading by example.
This section explores each component individually to highlight the impact our client work has had in creating trust and respect in society to solve important problems.
Click an element of our strategy to see our client stories and reports from FY17 in detail.

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