Managing our carbon emissions

Our carbon emissions are relatively low compared to many sectors, as we set out in our first response to the recommendations of the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosure. However, they’re our biggest environmental impact, and we want to play our part in contributing to the UK Government’s targets of cutting greenhouse gases by 37% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, against 1990 levels.

Having reduced our total carbon emissions by 29% between 2007 and 2017, we set new targets to go further over the next five years to 2022, compared to the same baseline. These are:

  • to reduce our total operational carbon emissions (tonnes CO2e) by 40%
  • to reduce carbon emissions from business travel (tonnes CO2 e) by 33% per FTE
  • to purchase 100% of electricity from verified renewable sources, eliminating our scope 2 carbon emissions
  • to remain carbon neutral by continuing to offset 100% of our total scope 1, 2, and 3 carbon emissions (tonnes CO2e) as reported each year

These also support the targets for PwC globally.

Achieving an 11% drop in 2018 brings our total emissions reduction since 2007 to -37% (scope 1, 2 & 3), well on track to meeting our new target. This includes a reduction of 86% in our combined Scope 1 & 2 emissions, which has also helped us to save an estimated £25m in operational energy and carbon costs over that period.  

We pioneer new, low carbon technologies wherever feasible. And we try to pass on what we've learnt to our clients and others through case studies and downloadable 'Lessons Learned'.

Our approach and programmes

Our carbon management strategy involves:

  • setting targets for reducing our absolute carbon emissions (scope 1, 2 and 3)
  • minimising our emissions by improving operational efficiencies and investing in innovative technologies and approaches to reduce our resource consumption and the waste we generate
  • buying renewable energy from certified sources wherever practicable
  • minimising unnecessary travel by encouraging our people to adopt new technologies to collaborate with colleagues and clients remotely
  • working with our suppliers to understand the opportunities to improve our supply chain footprint, including food
  • sharing our knowledge of carbon accounting, management and reporting from our client work and operational experiences across our networks to accelerate best practice
  • offsetting our Scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon emissions by buying carbon credits certified under the REDD+, CBB and VCS standards.

Measuring and reporting our emissions

We follow a rigorous process to calculate our carbon emissions, using GHG Protocol and Defra guidelines, and we report them transparently each year in our annual scorecard, which is published with our Annual Report. We’ve held the Carbon Trust standard since 2009, for measuring, managing and reducing our carbon emissions; and we hold the Carbon Trust Supply Chain level 2 standard. We also support the global PwC network response to the CDP.  

You can find out more about our specific environmental impacts and solutions, in our pages on business travel, energy consumption, material consumption, and waste generation

Offsetting our emissions

While we’ve significantly reduced our carbon emissions since 2007, the remaining emissions we produce still contribute to climate change, so we offset them to achieve carbon neutrality, by purchasing credits from carbon offsetting projects.

Our impacts

We’ve offset our ‘direct’, operational carbon emissions, as reported in each financial year, since 2007. In addition to the carbon benefits, some of the additional benefits of our support to those projects over that time include, cumulatively:

  • the protection of approximately 80,000 hectares of virgin forest from deforestation

  • the generation of over 200,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy - enough to meet the energy needs in our UK offices for more than five years

  • avoiding the release of more than 6 million normal cubic metres of methane, which was instead used in power generation

Over the years, we’ve supported a number of projects internationally, which promote renewable energy such as wind or hydroelectric power. But our TIMM analysis showed that ‘land use’ was our second biggest environmental impact, because of the ‘indirect’ and ‘induced’ impacts in our value chain. So, while we only offset the emissions from our own business, we now focus on REDD+ projects which work to avoid deforestation and forest degradation - key drivers of global carbon emissions - in biodiversity hotspots, through working with local communities.


Our offset projects

All three of the projects we support are REDD+ verified, and account for 100% of the emissions we reported in 2018. They have also all achieved Gold Level status under the Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standard. Each project also meets the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), which ensures that our carbon credits are real, measurable, additional, permanent, independently verified, unique and traceable, with a transparent chain of custody, from issuance through to retirement.

Madagascar is considered to be one of the top five biodiversity hotspots in the world. More than 75% of all animal and plant species are endemic, while less than 10% of its primary vegetation is remaining. The Makira project plays an essential role in biodiversity protection by limiting deforestation in 360,000 hectares (more than twice the size of greater London) of the Makira forest and working with communities around the forest in a ‘protection zone’ of 320,000 hectares.

Based on the island of Borneo in Indonesia, this REDD+ project preserves carbon-dense tropical peat swamp by helping to halt deforestation of roughly 47,000 hectares of forest originally slated for conversion to palm oil plantations. The project focuses on both community development and biodiversity conservation, particularly the protection of the endangered Borneo Orangutan.

To deliver on its goals, the project actively engages local communities to improve food security, income opportunities, health care, and education.

90% of Brazil’s Acre state is forested, but current rates of destruction mean by 2030 this could decline to 65%. This collection of three projects aims to prevent deforestation across 105,000 hectares of pristine rainforest in the Amazon basin, protecting some of the world’s most biodiverse habitats.

With the support of carbon finance, the projects work with communities and local groups to help protect ecosystem services while providing alternative models of economic development which avoid destruction of the forest.

Valuing our impact

In 2017, using our Total impact framework, we estimated the societal impact of our total greenhouse gas emissions at £65m. However, only 0.1% of it was attributable to our direct operations, down 45% from five years earlier. The vast majority fell outside of our own operations, and we’re continuing to try to understand ways to reduce this impact with our key suppliers.

Supply chain carbon emissions

From 2013 to 2017 we asked our key suppliers to submit their emissions data to the CDP’s (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project’s) supply chain programme, as a way of encouraging them to share information on how they’re working to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change. We also hosted a number of key supplier workshops, which focused on helping them to measure and set targets for reducing their emissions. Over the five years to 2017, the proportion of our key suppliers disclosing to the CDP increased from 25% to 81%. However, we have a target for 75% of our key suppliers to have carbon emissions targets, and in 2018 only 44% reported that they had them. While this is an improvement on the baseline figure of 39% there’s more work to do on this aspect of the programme.   

Contact us

Bridget Jackson

Chief Sustainability Officer, PwC United Kingdom

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