Driving net zero action with suppliers

Setting the scene

The World Economic Forum is one of many organisations calling for businesses to set ambitious ‘net zero’ climate targets in the form of a Science Based Target or a Business Ambition for 1.5 degrees. And with the UK government having set a legally-binding target of net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest, the last 12 months have seen some bold commitments from global companies seeking to eliminate the greenhouse gas emissions not only of their operations but also across their value chains. This is good news, especially as many have set targets sooner than 2050 in the face of irreversible climate breakdown. However, to achieve a net zero economy, all businesses in every sector must urgently start to transition to a net zero operating model. 

At PwC, we’ve been carbon neutral since 2007 and decoupled our carbon emissions from our revenue growth between 2007 and 2020. In particular we’ve also reduced the carbon footprint of our direct operations (scope 1 and 2) by 90% and of our total emissions (including travel, waste and key items procured) by almost 40% - in line with the decarbonisation goals set in the global Paris Agreement in 2015. As a professional services firm, however, the emissions from our own operations are relatively low whilst those of our suppliers are many times bigger. That’s why our long standing Supply Chain Sustainability programme is designed to drive down carbon emissions from our supply chain through innovation, engagement and collaboration.

What we did

Recognising the upswing in this agenda and the rapidly changing expectations of business relating to climate change, this year we focused our annual PwC UK Supplier Sustainability Forum on knowledge sharing about net zero. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, we ran the event in a virtual format, making the most of the firm’s collaborative technologies. This allowed us to bring together our key suppliers, covering a range of sectors from real estate and facilities, hotels and travel, to technology and marketing. We were unsure what level of attendance we could expect (given the Covid19-related business disruption), but interest in this topic was very high and, in fact, we reached a wider audience than the usual face-to-face version of the event as room capacity was no longer a barrier. We also ensured the session was interactive by running live polls, crowdsourcing questions and gathering live feedback throughout the event.

The forum set out the implications of a net zero economy and what it will require from business over the coming decade or two. It covered how to set science-based targets and PwC’s own decarbonisation pathway since 2007. It shared tips on how to cut carbon via energy efficiency and switching to low carbon energy sources. We had a combination of PwC specialists and third party speakers, including two from our own suppliers, who inspired attendees with the story of their sustainability journey and achievements to date, as well as explaining their new, net zero commitments. The morning concluded with a session on carbon offsets, delivered by a leading offset provider.

Making a difference

Over 50 suppliers attended from c. 30 different companies. The packed agenda provided suppliers with a range of topics each specifically designed to support their company's transition towards net zero. Participants rated the event as highly informative, describing it as ‘stimulating, insightful, and inspirational’. It was also encouraging that all participants taking part in our feedback question at the end of the session said they were motivated to support their business transition towards net zero. 

Business is clearly listening to calls for climate action, as the results from other polls amongst suppliers attending illustrate:

  • Glass half full: 66% think the transition to net zero will have a mostly positive impact on business and another 26% believe it will bring a combination of positive and negative impacts.

  • Momentum towards a 1.5 degree world: 33% have already set a science-based target and 42% intend to, either in the short or mid term (33% in the next 12 months, 9% in the next 5 years). Suppliers also responded that they felt better equipped to set one as a result of our forum. 

  • Clean clearly on the horizon: 43% said they already procure clean energy and 57% that they intend to switch in the short to mid term (14% in the next 12 months, 43% in the next 5 years). After hearing about the clean energy market, 83% said they are more likely to switch to zero carbon electricity. 

To keep average global warming under 1.5 degrees we all need to scale and accelerate climate action. Engaging our suppliers and sharing our knowledge with them is just one way we, at PwC UK, are working to play our part in delivering a net zero economy. 

“The main action I will take away from today’s event is that we will look at aligning our plans with the science-based targets.”

“I now feel better equipped to discuss this with a wider audience and push our business to do more. I hope I can share some success stories in the near future!”

“We will look into exploring renewable sources of energy and reducing our carbon footprint via new available options.”

“Really informative session. We will certainly be acting on this.”

PwC suppliers attending the 2020 Sustainability Forum

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Latifa Kapadia

Latifa Kapadia

Director of Sustainability, PwC United Kingdom

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