Low carbon and circular business

As a professional services firm our environmental impact is small compared with many other industries. But our clients, our people and other stakeholders still expect us to minimise our impact, and as a responsible business whose operations ultimately rely on natural resources, we want to do everything we can. So, becoming a low carbon and more circular business is an important element of our Purpose.

Most of our operational impact comes from carbon emissions generated by business travel and the use of energy in our buildings. So, our carbon mitigation programme is central to our efforts, and we also offset our operational carbon emissions as reported each year. Additionally, we work to reduce the resources that we consume in our operations, and the waste we generate. Read more about how we decoupled our carbon emissions from our revenue growth between 2007 and 2020.

Our approach

Our environmental policy outlines our approach to managing and reducing our operational impacts and provides the framework for our environmental targets. Overall, we’re pleased with our performance against these since our 2007 baseline, which we publish annually in our non-financial scorecard.

We have an environmental management system which has been certified to the international standard ISO 14001 since 2008, for all of our UK offices where we have operational control, and we’ve held the ISO 50001 energy standard since 2012.

We engage our people to raise awareness of sustainability issues and encourage them to take action to reduce their environmental impacts, and we encourage our key suppliers to take action in particular areas through our supply chain sustainability programme.

We’re proud to have achieved a number of recognised standards in environmental management – particularly from the Carbon Trust and BREEAM. You can find out more about these in our credentials section.

We measure our progress against our environmental targets throughout the year and report externally at the end of each financial year in our Annual Report.

Opportunities and risks

Disruptions to our energy supply or from extreme weather can impact the operation of our offices and our ability to travel, both of which are integral to our ability to deliver our services to our clients. We proactively manage these risks through our business continuity and environmental management systems. We’ve outlined this in our response to the recommendations of the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD).

However, our clients and other stakeholders also expect us to actively manage our environmental performance as part of our approach to being a responsible business. This represents an opportunity for us as it influences our reputation, and gives us a chance to innovate and differentiate ourselves. Additionally, our Sustainability and Climate Change practice provide advice to clients on environmental impacts, so we aim to ‘walk the talk’, adopting best practice in our own operations, and make our case studies and lessons learned publically available to stakeholders. We also know from our internal analysis that our environmental performance is important to our people and influences their view of the firm as a great place to work.

Improving our environmental performance also makes good commercial sense as it helps us to reduce costs from the resources we consume. We estimate that - cumulatively - we’ve saved over £35m in operational costs between 2007 and 2019, as a result of our initiatives. These savings have primarily come from avoided energy, paper and water consumption, and carbon-related costs associated with the government’s CRC scheme, and our voluntary commitment to choice to offset our residual carbon emissions each year. We also save on the cost of avoidable business travel.


Building on the improvements in our environmental performance that we delivered between 2013 and 2017, we set five-year targets for 2018 to 2022. These support our aspiration to become a low carbon and circular business, and use the same 2007 baseline as our previous targets. They are:

Low carbon economy

  • to reduce our total operational carbon emissions (tonnes CO2e) by 40%
  • to reduce our carbon emissions per FTE from business travel (tonnes CO2e) by 33%
  • to maintain our energy consumption (in kWh) at 50% below our 2007 baseline
  • 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

Circular business

  • to reduce the amount of paper we consume (in tonnes) by 80%
  • to reduce the amount of water we consume (in cubic metres) by 50%
  • to maintain our zero waste to landfill status
  • to reduce the amount of waste we generate (in tonnes) by 75%
  • to reuse or recycle 80% of our waste, minimising the amount that is incinerated

Awareness and education

We launched a large scale sustainability programme in May 2011, 'Building our blueprint for better business', which thousands of our people have subscribed to. This programme has two key objectives:

  • to ensure our staff are well informed about sustainability issues
  • to support and encourage them to take action to reduce our impact on the environment.

Over the years, campaigns have focused on the use of online meetings as an alternative to avoidable travel, improving our waste and recycling performance through Going Circular, reducing single-use plastic bottles, and supporting veganuary to encourage our people to eat more plant based food.

We collaborated with WWF to promote a film to our people entitled Our Planet: Our Business, supplemented with online panel discussions involving PwC and WWF experts. Inspired by the Netflix One Planet documentary series, the film highlights the scale of the dependency that business has on nature, and the looming ecological crisis which will impact our clients without global action.

Valuing our impact

We’re also shaping the debate on important environmental issues and collaborating with our clients on their environmental impacts.

For instance, following our support to Puma’s ground-breaking environmental profit and loss account in 2011, we launched our Total Impact Measurement and Management (TIMM) framework in 2013 which goes a step further, helping organisations to give a financial value to their total economic, tax, environmental and social contribution to society. We reported our own total impact for the fifth time in 2017, and in 2019 we continued to help several clients to better understand their impacts.

We’ve made our methodology ‘open source’ as part of our contribution to the technical development of the Natural Capital Protocol.

Contact us

Marissa Thomas

Marissa Thomas

Partner, PwC United Kingdom

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