The Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted in 2015 by the 193 United Nations (UN) member states. There are 17 goals which address economic, environmental and social impacts, and are designed to form a blueprint for good growth, nationally and internationally, by 2030. They’re underpinned by 169 targets to help define progress.

The SDGs apply to both developed and developing countries, and governments expect business to help achieve the goals, which are expected to frame the agendas and policies of member states until 2030. Governments are also likely to want to measure and monitor the effectiveness of their interventions, so business will need to be aware of national ambitions and how they contribute to them.

Our SDG prioritisation matrix

Our approach

Our purpose is to build trust in society and solve important problems, such as the global goals. As a firm, we contribute to them in a number of ways. Firstly, we create economic and social value through our core services - using our people’s skills and experience. Our market-leading Sustainability & Climate Change team (S&CC) has been collaborating with the United Nations to develop tools to help business understand the SDGs, as well as how to prioritise areas for action.  Secondly, we contribute to the debate and play an advocacy role on a number of issues covered by the goals. Indeed, we were one of 80 companies to write an open letter to the UK government in January 2017, calling for prioritisation of the SDGs in the UK and setting out our commitment to help deliver themFinally, we address issues directly in our operations through our approach to Corporate Sustainability and Diversity & Inclusion.

Opportunities and risks

We’ve identified and prioritised the areas we feel are most relevant for our business at the moment, applying the same criteria that we use when advising our clients. These include our S&CC team’s research into the impacts and opportunities for our sector.  We’ve looked at the team’s detailed guidance about how to engage with the goals.  And, we’ve also referred to the scoring for the UK from our interactive SDG selector. This draws on over 200 data sources, scoring each country against each SDG target, to anticipate potential areas of focus for future government policy - recognising that our business depends on a thriving UK economy.

We cross referenced the output from this with other considerations relating to our client delivery, our operations and our communities - to determine the priority goals for our business. We’ll still refer to the full list as a ‘sense check’ to make sure that we’re helping to contribute to all of the goals in some way. 

We haven’t ascribed a priority level to Goal 17, however as all of the SDGs are dependent on effective partnerships and collaboration. In solving important problems we work with all sectors of society, providing technical advice and resources as appropriate, such as our work with the UN Global Compact and GRI on prioritising and reporting the SDGs. In some cases, where we believe it will advance the common good, we’ve made our intellectual property ‘open source’ – as in the case of our Total Impact and Natural Capital Accounting methodologies.  

Programmes

The priority we’ve initially attributed to each goal, together with key actions we’re taking to support them, are set out below. We’ll keep this prioritisation under review.

Click below to explore each set of goals:

High priority  Medium priority  Low priority

High priority

4. Quality education

We're one of the largest graduate recruiters in the UK, and have been voted by students as the UK’s number one graduate employer in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers for 15 consecutive years. We train hundreds of students to become qualified accountants each year, and facilitate equal access to education for minority groups, women and people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, both in our workplace and our community work.

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5. Gender equality

Our diverse workforce makes us a better firm. We’re committed to creating an inclusive workplace and culture where everyone can reach their full potential.

  • We have an extensive diversity and inclusion programme which seeks to drive equality for women in our business. This includes ambitious public targets for gender at each grade, transparency around our gender pay gap - which we were one of the first businesses to disclose - and multiple programmes to help women throughout their careers, including sponsorship, mentoring and coaching. We've banned all-male shortlists for experienced hires, and are also signatories of the United Nation’s HeForShe campaign to engage men as agents of change for gender equality. (Target 5.1, 5.5)

  • Our Flexible Talent Network offers people a chance to work for the firm without being tied to a full time contract and standard working hours, and our parental leave policies aim to support our people when taking time out of the workplace for caring responsibilities. Similarly, our Back to Business programme is helping senior professional women to restart their career after an extended break. (Target 5.4, 5.5)

  • We continue to publish our assessment of female economic empowerment across OECD countries in our annual Women in Work Index, and published a report on the gender pay gap in the technology sector. We also ran the Scale-up Female Founders programme, which sought to create commercial opportunities for women running high potential tech companies. (Target 5.5)

  • Our #WomenInTech initiative is expanding: we co-created the Tech She Can charter, signed by over 50 organisations, which aims to encourage more young women to pursue technology careers. In Belfast, Our Hive Tech Academy promotes STEM subjects to school children and we're founding members of the Inclusive Digital Champions Network. (Target 5.b)

  • Our client work includes engagements to help empower women and girls including DFID’s Girls Education Challenge, which improves education opportunities for marginalised girls in some of the world’s poorest countries; and supporting the development of partnerships between the government and the private sector to improve education for girls, such as the Coca Cola 5by20 initiative. (Target 5.c)

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8. Decent work and economic growth

As one of the largest professional services firms in the UK, our role in helping clients of all sizes and in all sectors to grow makes this one of our most significant areas of positive contribution.

  • Our revenue grew 5% in 2018 to £3.76 billion, while we recruited more than 1,250 graduates and school leavers, and more than 2,000 experienced hires. We periodically measure the net financial value to society of our combined economic, tax, social and environmental impacts, and in 2017 this totalled £4.62 billion - 28% more than our revenue that year. (Target 8.1)

  • Our growth strategy is based around the use of technology to catalyse higher levels of economic productivity. We've developed 'Intelligent Digital', where we balance business understanding with technology innovation and human insight to help our clients and people thrive in the digital revolution - for example, applying artificial intelligence to GDP forecasting, and incorporating machine learning into healthcare record keeping. And, we’ve introduced a Technology Degree Apprenticeship to our Flying Start degree series for students. (Target 8.2, 8.3)

  • We’ve extended our ‘responsible technology’ approach, showcasing the positive role technology can fulfil in society while mitigating some of the potentially negative impacts. We’re collaborating with the World Economic Forum and Stanford University to explore how the fourth industrial revolution could help solve global environmental issues. And, collaborating with Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), we also published the SDG Investment Case outlining to the investment community the benefits of proactively engaging with the SDGs, and the risks of not doing so. (Target 8.2, 8.4)

  • We’re founder members of the Buy Social Corporate Challenge, committing ourselves to use our purchasing decisions to support the social enterprise sector in addressing social and environmental issues. Social enterprises have also been central to our community engagement programmes for several years - our UK-wide Social Entrepreneurs’ Club offers training, support, events and resources to 250 social entrepreneurs. (Target 8.3, 8.6)

  • We set challenging, long term, public targets to decouple our environmental impact from our economic growth, and publish our achievements each year in our Annual Report and non-financial scorecard, and on this website. (Target 8.4)

  • As set out under Goal 5, we have an extensive diversity and inclusion programme, with transparent reporting against public targets, and were among the first businesses to voluntarily publish both our gender and ethnicity pay gaps. (Target 8.5, 8.6)

  • We have a programme addressing human rights and modern slavery risks in our operations and supply chain, with 72% of our key suppliers reporting that they have a human rights policy in place in 2018. (Target 8.7, 8.8)

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10. Reduced inequalities

In a diverse and competitive world, we need to make sure that we can bring the best talent to our clients, regardless of race, gender or background. We pride ourselves on our approach to diversity and inclusion.

  • We publish our performance on diversity, ethnicity, and social mobility in our Annual Report and scorecard. We were one of the first businesses to voluntarily publish details of our gender pay gap (2014) and ethnicity gap (2017), both of which have been externally assured. We have robust policies in place to prevent discrimination in the workplace and our Open Mind training, designed to make our people think about the impact of unconscious bias on their relationships, is mandatory for all partners and staff. We were named as one of the UK's Best Employers for Race 2018. (Target 10.2, 10.3)

  • As part of our five point social mobility action plan, we’re working with over 40 partner schools nationally, focused largely on local authority social mobility coldspots and DfE Opportunity Areas. Our work in Bradford is a key example. We’re also a founder of the Social Mobility Pledge. We ranked sixth out of the top 50 employers in the UK’s Social Mobility Employer Index 2018 and were named Community Programme of the year at the UK Social Mobility Awards 2018. (Target 10.2, 10.3)

  • As tax advisors, we’re well placed to help governments understand how the tax system might be reformed for greater equality. For example, we’ve run a programme for several years called ‘Paying for Tomorrow’ to collect multi-stakeholder input to develop options for tax reform. And we’ve invested in our Total Tax Contribution (TTC) survey every year since 2005, to inform the debate over how much tax large corporates pay. Additionally, we’ve been working with business, Whitehall and the third sector to encourage the development of new solutions to try to tackle the Poverty Premium. (Target 10.4)

  • We’ve had an active voice in the debate on executive pay for several years. Together with the London School of Economics and Political Science we’ve published research on attitudes to fairness in reward policies and strategies, and we've given evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee for the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy about corporate governance and executive pay. We also report on executive remuneration in our own business in our Annual Report. (Target 10.4)

  • Through our leadership of the Climate & Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) over eight years we supported developing countries to deliver climate-compatible development, and continue to support them in international climate change negotiations to secure fair and ambitious outcomes. (Target 10.6)

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Medium priority

3. Good health and wellbeing

Our people are our biggest strength as a firm, so , their physical and mental health is critical for our business.

  • We have an extensive employee programme around mental health which seeks to raise awareness, destigmatise the topic and ensure access to support. These include our ‘Green Light to Talk' campaign, and our involvement in the 'This is Me' initiative, which both encourage open dialogue around mental health issues. We also developed an app to support our people in conversations about mental health. (Target 3.4)

  • Our broader wellbeing programmes also include resilience training in partnership with The Samaritans, a digital-dieting campaign, cycle-to-work support and promoting healthy eating to our people, and in our office canteens. (Target 3.4)

  • Through our PwC Foundation, we’ve partnered with charities that are addressing mental health issues, and funding research into improving the wellbeing of women and babies. (Target 3.1, 3.2, 3.4)

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7. Affordable and clean energy

Although our energy footprint is limited, we want to reduce our consumption. We use our operations and skills to accelerate the transition to clean energy.

  • To support the demand for – and delivery of – renewable energy we continue to use a 100% renewable electricity, backed by Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin (REGO) certificates. We’ve also moved to a renewable gas tariff, backed by Renewable Gas Guarantee of Origin (RGGO) certificates. These arrangements apply to all mainland UK offices that we operate ourselves. In 2018 they accounted for 72% of our total electricity consumption, and 61% of our overall energy consumption. (Target 7.2)

  • Since 2007, we’ve reduced our energy consumption by 52%, through investing extensively in renewing and consolidating our buildings across the UK, and pioneering new technologies and ways of working. As a result, our combined Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon emissions have fallen by 86% over the same period - making a significant contribution to our total carbon emissions reduction of 37%. (Target 7.3)

  • We’ve been confirmed as an Approved Verifier under the Climate Bond Standards and Certification Scheme, to support green bond issuers globally in scaling the green bonds market. (Target 7.a)

  • We supported developing countries to deliver climate-compatible development, including renewable energy, through our leadership of the Climate Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), and continue to support them in the international climate change negotiations. We’ve also extended our work with the World Economic Forum (WEF) to explore how the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be harnessed to address environmental challenges. (Target 7.b)

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12. Responsible consumption and production

Although we’re not an intensive user of natural resources, we spend a significant amount with suppliers each year, which offers a way to indirectly influence some of the other social and environmental Goals. We also work extensively with clients and other organisations on integrating relevant sustainability information into their businesses and reporting cycles.

  • We’ve set long term targets to to decouple our operational environmental impacts from our economic growth. Between 2007 (our baseline year) and 2018, we reduced our consumption of energy by 52%, paper by 65%, water by 39%, and waste by 44%, while increasing our recycling rate to 90%. (Target 12.2)

  • We’re progressively adopting the principles of the circular economy – avoiding consumption where possible, increasing the proportion of materials we divert to reuse or recycling, and exploring circular solutions with our suppliers. For example, in 'reimagining' our London offices we re-manufactured our furniture to reduce the need for new metal, plastics and wood. This included turning hundreds of metal filing cabinets into employee lockers. (Target 12.5)

  • As members of the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD), we helped to develop the recommendations for companies to use in disclosing information to investors about the impacts of climate change on their financial performance; and we’ve worked with the UN Global Compact and the GRI on guidelines for prioritising and reporting on the SDGs. We also work with clients on circular economy solutions, and sustainable operations and procurement. In particular, our work on Total Impact Measurement & Management (TIMM) is helping clients to assign a financial value to the impact they have on natural capital. In the interest of transparency, and to help accelerate the pace of advancement of such approaches, we’ve also made our methodology papers public. (Target 12.6)

  • We report extensively on our own sustainability practices and progress against targets - including our supply chain work - in our Annual Report and non-financial scorecard, which is externally assured by our financial auditors. We’ve also published our first response to the TCFD recommendations for our UK business. (Target 12.6)

  • We encourage a number of ‘key’ suppliers, that collectively account for the majority of our managed supplier spend, to adopt more sustainable practices. Over the five years to 2017, the proportion of our key suppliers disclosing their carbon emissions to the CDP increased from 25% to 81%, and in 2017 we were named on the CDP Supplier Engagement Leaderboard for our work with suppliers on carbon emissions. We're also one of the first businesses to achieve the Carbon Trust Supply Chain Standard (level 2). (Target 12.6, 12.7)

  • We’ve developed and run a number of internal campaigns and events focused on areas including sustainable food, single-use plastics, social enterprises, and cycling to work, to raise our people’s awareness of how the links to their work and to the relevant SDGs. (Target 12.8)

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16. Peace, justice and strong institutions

As a professional services firm, and given the breadth and quantity of clients we work with, our core advisory, assurance and tax services and operational practices play an important role in upholding effective, accountable and transparent institutions that society can trust.

  • The work we do to audit the financial accounts and non-financial reporting of listed companies plays a key role in helping to to underpin trust in business and confidence in the capital markets. We’re committed to continual improvement in audit quality, and with important questions being asked about whether the audit still meets society's expectations we’re playing an active role in the discussion. (Target 16.5, 16.6)

  • Since 2002, we’ve hosted the Building Public Trust Awards for the FTSE 100, FTSE 250, and private, public and charity sectors, to encourage organisations to produce clear, transparent corporate reporting. (Target 16.6)

  • As members of the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD), we played an active role in developing the recommendations for companies to use in disclosing information to investors about the impacts of climate change on their financial performance, and publish our own disclosure. (Target 16.6)

  • We also voluntarily publish a comprehensive and externally assured non-financial scorecard, which includes metrics on breaches of personal independence regulations, dismissals for misconduct, and issues raised through our confidential Speak Up’ helpline and other channels. (Target 16.6)

  • We operate in line with a stringent Code of Conduct, and all of our partners, staff and contractors undertake regular mandatory training to help them understand our ethical requirements, including those relating to corruption and bribery. (Target 16.5)

  • Our Modern Slavery Statement sets out our approach to identify and prevent exploitation, trafficking and other human rights infringements, in both our operations and our supply chain. (Target 16.2)

  • And we support the ID2020 initiative, a public-private partnership which explores how innovative technologies like blockchain might be used to give people a unique digital identity that can help eradicate human trafficking and modern slavery. (Target 16.3, 16.9)

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Low priority

1. No poverty

We primarily tackle poverty in the UK through ensure our operations, recruitment and community engagement programmes.

  • Many of our community programmes help to increase employability, which helps to lift people in the areas near our UK offices out of poverty. In 2011 we created Brigade – a joint-venture social enterprise which provides training and employment opportunities for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. (Target 1.2)

  • We’ve been an accredited Living Wage employer for many years, so our employees and supplier staff working permanently at our mainland UK offices earn, as a minimum, a wage that helps to keep them out of poverty. (Target 1.3)

  • As set out under Goal 10, we’ve been working with business, Whitehall and the third sector to encourage the development of new solutions to try to tackle the Poverty Premium, with a particular focus on the energy markets and financial services. And, our five point social mobility action plan aims to new to give young people from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to develop skills for a successful future and to access careers in business. (Target 1.4)

  • Our international development work for clients, such as our support to DFID’s Impact Programme, makes a contribution to eradicating poverty in developing countries. (Target 1.1, 1.4)

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2. Zero hunger

Our business isn’t closely linked to the systemic issues that drive hunger, but we contribute where we can.

  • By eliminating our food waste, and pursuing opportunities to redistribute unused food from our on-site kitchens, we’re helping to reduce the pressure on food availability. (Target 2.1)

  • We work with businesses, governments and civil society on ‘climate-smart agriculture’ to help them understand the impact of climate change on their agricultural interests and how they can respond. (Target 2.4)

  • And, we’ve joined the Peas Please campaign together with our catering service provider, with a commitment to increase spend on vegetables sold in our in-office restaurants. We’ve run an engagement campaign to raise awareness of the impacts of some industrialised food and highlighting ways to get the daily recommended amount of protein from plant-based food. (Target 2.4)

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6. Clean water and sanitation

We don't have a large water footprint in our direct operations. However, we monitor our consumption and have been investing to reduce it.

  • Between 2007 and 2018, we achieved a 39% reduction in water consumption in our offices. (Target 6.4)

  • As we report under Goal 15, we’ve also played a key role in the technical development and launch of the Natural Capital Protocol. (Target 6.6)

  • At a global level, PwC is also a signatory to the United National Global Compact's (UNGC) CEO Water Mandate and supported the development of the UN guidelines for water disclosure. (Target 6.6)

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9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure

As a people-based professional services firm, this goal is less relevant to our business operations, although some client work can make a positive contribution.

  • As part of our ongoing Paying For Tomorrow campaign, we convened a business jury on improving workforce productivity, to deliver recommendations to representatives from the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. (Target 9.2)

  • We launched a new series of Scale-up programmes across the UK. These aim to foster commercial opportunities between fast-growth companies, post-startup, and large organisations looking to innovate, by connecting them with potential customers, industry decision makers, investors and leading experts who can procure, partner, go-to-market, advise or invest in their business. (Target 9.3)

  • We’re working with the Office of National Statistics’ Data Science Campus on data analytics skills development, research, and capabilities. (Target 9.5)

  • In 2017, we launched a National Technology Industry Hub in Reading to help support our technology clients. Overseas, we’re supporting development in Africa by helping governments to use digital technology to improve their ability to collect tax for investment. (Target 9.2, 9.5)

  • We've also developed an online service to help small firms to quickly and easily prepare claims for tax credits for research and development and to then submit to HMRC. (Target 9.5)

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11. Sustainable cities and communities

We make a contribution to sustainable cities through our client work to help improve the infrastructure of urban areas in developing nations, and locally by upgrading our offices in the UK.

  • We lead DFID's Infrastructure and Cities for Economic Development (ICED) facility. ICED supports the design of a next generation of UK development assistance programmes on accelerated and sustainable investment into the built environment of developing countries in Africa and South Asia. We're also working on the ‘100 Smart Cities Mission' which aims to make cities across India citizen friendly and sustainable, with ‘smart’ technology systems that respond to changes in the urban environment. (Target 11.2, 11.3)

  • As part of our work with WEF, we’ve co-published a series of papers which include how the Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing environmental sustainability in emerging cities, and the impact of migration on urban infrastructure and services, highlighting potential solutions. And, we’re a founding member of the Coalition for Urban Transitions, an international and collaborative initiative that provides evidence-based sustainable urban policy advice to emerging market governments tackling the challenges of rapid urbanisation. (Target 11. 3)

  • A key element of transitioning to a more sustainable economy is dealing with old building stock, so we built sustainability criteria into the upgrade of our UK offices. In particular, our London offices at More London and Embankment Place have both achieved the ‘Outstanding’ rating under BREEAM, a leading environmental rating system for buildings, setting new standards when they were opened. We’ve applied many of the pioneering technologies and lessons learned from these projects to the upgrade of our regional offices. (Target 11.6)

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13. Climate action

Following the Paris Climate Agreement and 2018 IPCC report, there’s a global imperative to address climate change. Our carbon emissions are relatively low compared to many sectors, but they’re the biggest environmental impact for our business, so we’ve made their reduction central to our sustainability strategy and invested to make a step change in our impact and resilience.

  • Our ISO22301-certified business continuity management system has been developed to minimise the risks of extreme weather to our offices, whilst locations for new offices and data centres are assessed for potential climate change impacts. (Target 13.1)

  • As set out under Goal 16, as members of the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD), we helped to develop the recommendations for companies to use in disclosing information to investors about the impacts of climate change on their financial performance. We’ve also developed climate scenario analysis and TCFD readiness diagnostic tools, as well as publishing TCFD guides for business leaders. (Target 13.2)

  • We continue to publish our Low Carbon Economy Index, tracking the progress G20 countries have made since 2000 to decarbonise their economies. Through our leadership of the Climate & Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), we supported low-income countries to deliver climate-compatible development, and we continue to support them in the international climate change negotiations. And our work with WEF, includes exploring how the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be harnessed to address environmental challenges such as climate change. (Target 13.3, 13.b)

  • We’ve set long term targets to reduce our absolute carbon emissions (Scope 1, 2 & 3) by 40% between 2007 and 2022. In 2018 we reduced them to -37%. This includes a reduction of 86% in our combined scope 1 & 2 emissions since 2007. We've also offset all of our ‘direct’ emissions, as reported in each financial year since 2007. All of the projects we support are REDD+ certified,and have also achieved Gold Level status under the Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standard. (Target 13.2, 13b)

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14. Life below water

Our business isn’t directly linked with oceans and marine resources, but we’re making a contribution through our operations and our community volunteering.

  • We’ve worked with a range of partners – including the Marine Conservation Society and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust – as part of our environmental volunteering programme, to monitor and reduce water pollution. This has included events focused on ocean plastics and highlighting the polluting impact of single-use plastic on marine life. (Target 14.1)

  • We’re also reducing the amount of plastic in our business, having published a plastics policy. We replaced plastic bottles in our client meeting rooms with refillable glass bottles several years ago, and moved to fully compostable consumable products for food and drinks prepared in our offices as part of our ‘Going Circular’ programme. We also ran a successful 'Give Me Tap' initiative, offering reusable metal water bottles to employees to help reduce single-use plastic bottle consumption. Additionally, we’ve undertaken a comprehensive review of the major sources of plastic across key categories of spend, and have identified a number of potential solutions that we’ll continue to evaluate as part of our Going Circular ambition. (Target 14.1)

  • Through our catering supplier we ensure that seafood in our office restaurants is sourced from MSC-certified fisheries, and that we don’t purchase from the MCS red list of 'fish to avoid', or from the IUCN red list of endangered fish. We also developed a sustainable fish campaign for our people, encouraging them to try less well known varieties in our restaurants, and distributing the MSC Good Fish Guide. (Target 14.2, 14.4)

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15. Life on land

Our core business doesn’t have a significant impact on life on land directly, but it’s a UK priority so we use both our operations and technical skills to make a positive contribution.

  • Part of our environmental volunteering programme has focused on woodland management and conservation work to support biodiversity and ecosystem services, linking local volunteering activity to global environmental issues. (Target 15.1, 15.2)

  • We’re also a leading adviser on forestry, helping clients with issues relating to sustainable forestry, biodiversity and climate change. This includes structuring afforestation, reforestation and forest conservation projects, and carbon credit transactions. (Target 15.2)

  • We use our carbon offsets to conserve life on land. 100% of the carbon credits we purchase to offset our residual Scope 1, 2 & 3 carbon emissions each year are from projects which have achieved gold level status under the Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) standard, and are REDD+ certified, meaning that they focus on the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks through working with local communities. (Target 15.2, 15.5, 15.b)

  • We’ve collaborated with some of the world’s leading organisations in the technical development and launch of the Natural Capital Protocol, which aims to support better business decisions through a standardised framework to identify, measure, and value impacts and dependencies on natural capital. (Target 15.9, 15.a)

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Jon Hampson

Corporate sustainability, PwC United Kingdom

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