Paper is one of our most significant consumables and we’ve been working to reduce the associated environmental impacts for many years.
First, we’ve invested in equipment that reduces usage. Over a number of years, we removed more than 2,000 desktop printers, in favour of centrally-located and energy-efficient multifunctional devices (MFDs), which can handle network printing, photocopying and scanning. We've set them up so that they default to double-sided printing, significantly reducing the quantity of paper we need. Our people can only print by swiping their security pass at the device, which eliminates unintentional printing, and also increases data security. This arrangement also uses less toner. We lease the MFDs, too, so that the manufacturer can replace components or upgrade them over time, without the need to dispose of whole units.
Additionally, the general shift towards consuming information in digital format, is reducing the paper we use. We’ve invested in systems that make it easier for our people to access documents and to collaborate digitally, and encourage them to avoid printing unless necessary. We’re also exploring how we can move to digital formats for more types of information. For example, in 2015 we were the first business to ever produce its Annual Report in a fully online format.
For several years, the office paper that we’ve purchased has, been 100% recycled, and we’ve sent all of our paper waste to be recycled. However, we’ve now improved this arrangement and transitioned to a new supplier with a certified ‘closed-loop’ solution for paper. They collect and recycle our paper waste into a product that is high enough quality that we can buy it back and it use in our MFDs. It means that our paper is recycled up to 20 times – seven times more than traditional paper recycling, using no virgin wood, and significantly less water and energy than other recycled office paper.
Although we don't have a large direct water footprint, we recognise the challenges associated with water globally and in other communities where the PwC network of firms operate, and we're global signatories to the United National Global Compact's (UNGC) CEO Water Mandate.
In the UK specifically, we monitor our water consumption and have run various initiatives to reduce usage. These include replacingnine litre toilet cisterns with six litre cisterns across our properties, and installing waterless urinals, as well as taps and showers with automatic shut-off. We’ve also made significant water savings by installing improved condenser water systems across our real estate.
We look for ways to reduce material consumption, wherever we can. For example, we reuse laptops and mobile phones that are returned when employees leave the firm; we only hand out IT accessories (mice, laptop bags etc.) on request, encouraging our people to use those already issued if suitable; we encourage reuse of stationery items that are no longer needed (arch lever files, staplers etc.); we work with suppliers to eliminate unnecessary packaging; and we reuse furniture in different offices across our real estate portfolio to extend their life as long as possible within our business.
We also look to ensure as much our waste as possible can be reused or recycled, as part of our overarching Going Circular programme.