Increasing our efforts to tackle the challenges of climate change
Lynne Baber
Head of Sustainability
Carl Sizer
Head of UK Regions
UK Annual Report 2023

Increasing our efforts to tackle the challenges of climate change

Lynne Baber, Head of Sustainability
Carl Sizer, Head of UK Regions
Lynne Baber, Head of Sustainability
Carl Sizer, Head of UK Regions

Assessing the impact

The impact of climate change was highlighted across the UK - and globally - last year with record temperatures and floods, and the further decline of nature and biodiversity. The collective and comprehensive effort from individuals, communities, governments, and business showed that ambition was changing to action on the transition to a sustainable net zero future. And, over this past year, we’ve worked with our clients, our people, and our suppliers to help accelerate this change. But we remain conscious that we all, collectively, need to move faster to meet the challenges ahead.

In line with our global strategy, we strove to deliver sustained outcomes to complex challenges through a human-led, tech-powered approach. For example, evolving ESG commitments and regulatory requirements on sustainability reporting are changing the way we’re helping our clients navigate the transition and adapt to a world where progress is measured by more than just profit.

This is reflected in growing demand for both our ESG assurance and advisory services, including our dedicated Sustainability practice.

Supporting the nature-positive transition

Responding to the alarming threats to our natural world, we’re embedding nature positive action throughout our business operations, with our people and with clients through our new Centre for Nature Positive Business.

Why nature, why now?

Nature provides the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the essential resources and services that enable our societies and economies to thrive. So when it is under threat, it has an impact on all of us.

Changing the way we all think and interact with nature, and how the business community responds, is key. As a global organisation, we have a vital role to play in helping our clients respond with a more rigorous focus.

To help mobilise a response, we launched our global Centre for Nature Positive Business in April 2023, bringing together, and further expanding, our capabilities and expertise in areas such as biodiversity, water and forestry.

With more than half of the world's GDP moderately or highly dependent on nature, it's vital that we act, supporting our clients to embed nature positive strategies. We’re already driving positive change by supporting the Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), knowledge sharing through secondments to the Science Based Target Network, and catalysing private sector investment.

Over the coming year, the Centre will double the number of our nature specialists globally, from 500 people to 1,000. We will also provide nature-positive training to upskill our 328,000 strong global workforce to work towards nature-positive outcomes with clients.

“By boosting our capabilities to help clients develop and implement nature-positive strategies as part of their broader sustainability strategies, we are helping a growing number of businesses transform their operating models, and in doing so, help to build a net zero, nature-positive world.”

Nature is your business

Despite the alarming risks that society faces from nature loss, too little is spent globally on conserving and restoring natural ecosystems.

As a result, companies are likely to face an increase in nature-related risks, as disruptions threaten to reduce or cut off the flow of natural resources and services - anything from crops for the food and drink industries, or timber for use in construction, to rubber for the automotive industry, and plants that are critical for the pharmaceutical industry.

It’s vital that everyone across all industries understands that nature is one of our greatest allies in our fight against climate change.

This year, to bring to life the scale of the nature challenge and the opportunities for business to lead the response, we were the first organisation to screen ‘ The Business of Nature’, one of four new films in the ‘Save Our Wild Isles’ series - designed for the business community. The film uses stunning cinematography and interviews with UK business leaders to highlight why the biodiversity crisis is bad for business, and why it is critical for organisations to act now.

Nature and our people

As a firm we have a great nature story to tell, having prioritised protecting biodiversity through our operations and supply chain over several years.

We installed our first sedum green roof on our More London office in 2011, creating various habitats for a range of birds and invertebrates. At our London Embankment Place office we’ve also created space for nature, with a particular focus on providing bee habitats, alongside our new edible garden.

As part of our volunteering programme, we support seven environmental charity partners including Groundwork, Trees for Cities, and The Conservation Volunteers. These programmes allow our people to get outdoors and support their local habitats. Over the course of the year, over 2,400 of our people volunteered for environmental causes spending over 18,000 hours volunteering.

Nature is embedded throughout our business - through the programmes outlined above, our supply chain, catering offering and through our nature based UK carbon offsets. But, we know we need to go further still - so we’re also introducing a new 'Nature Network' programme that links nature, wellbeing and nutrition through a series of in-person and virtual events to help give our people the tools and knowledge to support biodiversity at work and at home.

“Business relies heavily on nature to supply much-needed goods and services. Recognising those dependencies is the first step toward managing the risks and opportunities they create.”
More than half of the worlds GDP is highly or moderately dependent Doubling the size of our nature specialists $58 trillion 1,000 328,000 strong global workforce Nature-positive training to upskill our

ESG and our people

The pace of change is gaining momentum, but it must move quicker still. That’s why we are committed to the ongoing upskilling of our people. We have an extensive ESG learning curriculum giving in-depth training, developed by PwC, for our staff in areas such as sustainability reporting, supply chain, and climate change. We also draw on external expertise, offering an ESG leadership course and a range of training opportunities from leading institutions.

Ensuring our people are equipped with the latest knowledge and tools means we can meet the evolving needs of our clients, put sustainability at the heart of both what we do and how we deliver to our clients, and bring wider societal benefits in line with our purpose.

The demand for the services of our dedicated Sustainability practice - including advising on sustainability reporting, finance, and strategy, and net zero transformation - have increased this year as climate issues and sustainability reporting requirements remain a key business issue. Across the UK firm, we have seen a significant increase in demand for ESG advice from across our lines of service - which reflects how intrinsically linked ESG is to business strategy.

As a result of the demand from clients for help with sustainability issues, we have seen an increase of 70% of people who have the required ESG skills and have delivered ESG-related work to our clients, since the same period last year.

To contribute to equipping the next generation of talent, we welcomed 25 graduates to our sustainability practice and over 50 interns to our ESG internship programme in the summer of 2022, as part of a wider cohort. For a six-week period the interns worked on client projects related to societal and environmental issues, including climate reporting and the transition to net zero.

our impact
on the Planet

As a firm we’re continually finding ways to address our environmental impacts, drive efficiencies and reduce our carbon footprint.

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Finding solutions

This year, we also worked with a number of public and private sector organisations, using both our client services and our convening power to drive understanding and action on climate change.

We launched the second iteration of our Green Jobs Barometer, continuing a national conversation that has included the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments, and more than 100 businesses, investors, policy makers, skills providers and local leaders across the UK. Through a series of roundtables, participants considered how we can work together to move to a greener jobs market and more sustainable economy, and we have shared their insights widely through the Barometer report.

Other highlights ranged from our work independently verifying the accuracy of Unilever’s sustainability data across their global operations, to working with the SBTi (Science Based Targets initiative) on guidance for the buildings sector to set emissions reduction targets in line with the Paris Agreement's aim to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

We were commissioned by the Climate Change Committee to examine the impact the transition will have on different households across the UK, including through improved health and productivity. We also led on the delivery of the Climate Finance Accelerator, which provides funding for low carbon projects in middle-income countries.

But it’s not just solutions for clients. As we continue to build on our longstanding corporate sustainability achievements, we are working towards our Net Zero by 2030 commitment to halve our emissions again, against a new FY19 baseline. One of our main focuses of FY23 was our Scope 3 emissions, collaborating with our suppliers to share best practices and encourage them to progress their own net zero initiatives. Our annual UK Supplier Sustainability Forum had over 80 attendees, including 55 supplier representatives from different companies across five sectors from travel to marketing.

Skills and tech are central to the solution

We kept the spotlight on how to achieve net zero through our Net Zero Economy Index. Additionally, our Green Jobs Barometer illustrated the scale of opportunities in the labour market, but also identified regional disparities so the right interventions can be made to ensure fairness.

Our State of Climate Tech report revealed the UK’s pre-eminent position as a source of funding for the companies that have the solutions to transition to clean energy and improved mitigation, adaptation and avoidance.

As part of our Building Trust in the Climate Transition series, we conducted research on carbon offsetting and what the rising cost of carbon offsets mean for business.

In a major piece of research that looks at closing the critical nature investment gap, we urged businesses to place nature on a par with climate change in their risk assessments, with more than half of global GDP moderately or highly dependent on nature.

Sustainable behaviours

In addition to our ongoing Sustainable Living at Home guide, Sustainability Champions, environmental volunteering, and energy saving webinars, 2023 has seen us create new ways to encourage our people to act on climate change - with a particular focus on the connection between nature and net zero. That action has included opening an edible garden in our London Embankment Place office and the launch of the new Global Centre for Nature Positive Business.

We’re also proud to have held our fifth Veganuary Workplace Challenge, which not only supports our people to try new plant-based options, but also highlights the ways we’ve reduced the carbon impact of our catering. Over 620 people participated in the challenge this year and since the challenge started over 2,400 Veganuary pledges have been made.

The power of a collective organisation to make a difference is what inspires us to look for new and innovative ways to engage with our people and wider stakeholders.

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