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Even before the COVID-19 crisis, pressure was building that put the world at a crossroads. Climate change, polarisation and disruptive technological change were creating unsustainable pressure on the societies, economies and ecosystems in which we all live and in which companies operate. COVID-19 has made these challenges more pressing and further raised the importance of progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
We believe that achieving the SDGs means addressing design problems in the way our economy is structured. The system of norms, regulations and laws that govern the economy have delivered tremendous improvements in prosperity, health and equality over time. However, they have not evolved quickly enough to meet the most pressing challenges the world faces now. Economic and social progress need to be recoupled.
To address the important problems of this era, we are working to:
Support change that people and organisations can make in the current context. Our focus has been on two areas: inclusivity and environmental sustainability.
Help solve the design problem with policy makers, standard setters and others. Our focus has been on helping improve the quality of information in the system by supporting efforts to align and embed non-financial reporting.
Given the urgency and severity of the challenges, addressing these issues has never been more important. Business does not prosper in societies that are not prospering.
We believe that everyone at PwC should be able to have a positive impact on society, both through the paid work we do for clients and beyond.
We deliver this support in three ways:
Volunteering. Nearly 48,000 (FY19: 61,284) PwC professionals volunteered to support their local communities in FY20 – a contribution of over 816,000 hours (FY19: 925,818). During the COVID-19 pandemic, our teams moved quickly to use technology to volunteer virtually, allowing our people to continue sharing their skills as they worked from home. We are pleased to say that more than 26,000 PwC people around the world continued to share their professional skills during the period from July 2019 to June 2020. Given the additional responsibilities many of our people were juggling such as caring for family members and supporting children’s distance learning during lockdown situations, this number was down from last year (FY19: 29,716).
Pro-bono work. Across the network, we engage in a broad range of pro- and low-bono projects that are conducted with the same combination of expertise and commitment that we put into our client work. This work spans support for small local charities through to national and global civil society organisations.
Partnerships and policy engagement. We believe that working in partnership with other organisations to advance global public policy and dialogue is crucial to achieving the kinds of system change needed. We have played an active role on a range of public policy issues including supporting several organisations as they develop non-financial reporting standards, working with UNICEF on the skills agenda, and coalition building in the US to support action that addresses issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement.
In October 2018, we set an ambitious global target for our corporate responsibility programmes across our 21 largest member firms: to invest in the future and growth of 15 million people, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and social and micro enterprises to help them maximise their potential by 2022. We are delighted to report that we remain on target to achieve this goal. From July 2019 to June 2020, we reached more than 5.2 million beneficiaries, and since the launch of our ambition in 2018, we have reached a total of 13.7 million beneficiaries. Beyond these numbers, we also conduct other pro-bono work through partnerships with other organisations and produce thought leadership that adds to public understanding of significant societal issues.
In addition, in a year when the impacts of COVID-19 were felt across all parts of our business, our financial investments in communities remained steady compared to the previous year. Some of our cash and in-kind donations were focused on the immediate and ongoing needs of front-line community organisations and NGOs in response to the pandemic.
While each territory where we operate is different, the big societal challenges across the globe are generally related to two themes. The first is around inclusivity and whether everyone has a chance to achieve their potential. The second is around environmental sustainability, with a focus on climate change. We undertake a broad range of initiatives that help to address both of these areas. In addition, we believe there are underlying systemic issues that need to be addressed, and are therefore actively supporting a reform agenda that has the potential to reshape how market economies function, and ensure the rules and norms that govern corporate behaviour reflect the priorities of the 21st century. We have also mobilised support in response to environmental and humanitarian crises.
This section sets out examples of our activities in each of these areas.
The economy should serve the interests of society, not the other way around. That is why we are committed to action that improves inclusivity and enables more people to participate in and benefit from the economy, and society more broadly.
Our biggest global programme in this area is ‘New world. New skills.’, which seeks to enable more people to have the digital skills they will need to succeed in the future.
Our New world. New skills. initiative is aimed at addressing the mismatch between the skills people have today and those needed for the digital world. Of the 5.2 million people, NGOs and social and micro enterprises we reached last year through our community programmes, nearly 3 million were involved in New world. New skills. initiatives. To find out more, click here.
In FY20, we joined forces with UNICEF in support of Generation Unlimited, to help upskill millions of young people around the world. We have also made our Digital Fitness App free to people and communities across the world. This free version of the app empowers people to stay relevant, boost their digital acumen, and access resources to help them navigate the digital age.
13 million reached of total ambition of 15 million by 2022
Over the past year, events in the United States triggered worldwide protests and calls to end systemic racism and injustice. Many of our firms have taken actions to help address inequalities and discrimination.
In the US, PwC is helping to build a more equitable society by enabling its people to use their time, skills and experiences to address social injustices. Through our pro bono program, Skills for Society, employees receive 40 hours to help nonprofit organizations and educational institutions address systemic causes that contribute to the opportunity gap. In August, the firm published its first-ever Diversity & Inclusion Transparency Report which outlines how it will build upon a culture of belonging.
As the co-founder of CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, together with more than 1,300 CEOs of the world’s leading companies and business organisations, the firm is advancing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. To further accelerate progress, it has recently launched CEO Action for Racial Equity, a two-year fellowship that provides the opportunity for CEO Action signatories to advance racial equity through public policy.
The second set of issues we are focused on relate to environmental sustainability. We’ve been a proud signatory to the UN Global Compact since 2002, and are committed to operating responsibly in line with its ten principles.
PwC has made a worldwide science-based commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030. The commitment includes supporting our clients in reducing their emissions as well as reducing those from the PwC network’s operations. We will decarbonise our operations, including our travel footprint, and neutralise our remaining climate impact by investing in carbon removal projects. We will also engage with our suppliers to help them tackle their own climate impact.
We have committed to reduce our total greenhouse gas emissions by 50% in absolute terms by 2030. This includes switching to 100% renewable electricity in all territories, as well as making energy efficiency improvements in our offices and halving the emissions associated with business travel and accommodation within a decade. In FY20, emissions associated with flights alone represented around 83% of our total carbon footprint (FY19: 85%).
We continue to support a range of high-quality carbon reduction projects. These projects not only reduce carbon emissions, but allow us to take responsibility for our impact. The projects we are helping to support have collectively impacted over 4.3 million people, protected or restored 539,000 hectares of land, and created over 1,820 new full time jobs. Find out more about our offset projects.
“A net zero world is within reach. Getting there will take innovation, hard work and bold thinking but the benefits will be immense. The pandemic has shown us new ways of working using investments in cloud-based computing, which we will take forward into the future. We’re determined to help address climate change – not just in our own operations and supply chain but also in the way we advise and support our clients.”
Our net zero commitment builds on work we have been doing to drive down emissions. In October 2018 we committed to drive efficiencies, go 100% renewable, and offset 100% of our air travel emissions. We have made significant progress towards that goal, in part as a result of the response to COVID-19. With our entire workforce working from home at various stages throughout the year, we have seen our Scope 1 and 2 emissions reduce by 14% and 25% respectively. Air travel is our largest source of carbon emissions, and as expected, we saw a reduction – 29% – in our Scope 3 emissions from last year due to COVID-19 restricting both domestic and international air travel. In FY20, we purchased 71% of our electricity from renewable sources, which supports our goal of becoming 100% renewable by 2022 across our 21 largest territories (FY19: 65%).
The greatest environmental impact from operating our business comes from the energy we use to power our offices and air travel. We report annually on the areas of our environmental impact that are most material to PwC, namely Scope 1, 2 & 3. Because our reliance on natural capital is small compared with many other industries, we have not aligned our global reporting against the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and do not report on our consumption of fresh water and land use.
Alongside action on inclusion and environmental sustainability, we are committed to supporting systemic change in the way the global economy operates.
Our view is that significant evolution is needed in economic structures that guide the economy; that these changes are in the enlightened self-interest of business as well as the interest of wider society; and that we can contribute to positive change by drawing on our breadth of experience across sectors and countries, and our depth of experience in terms of purpose, corporate governance, incentives and reporting.
Our focus has been on supporting policy makers, standard setters and businesses in aligning around a common set of reporting standards for non-financial information. Such information will make it much easier for investors and other stakeholders to understand how companies are operating and make decisions about who to invest in, who to do business with and what to engage with businesses about.
We have been collaborating with the World Economic Forum International Business Council to identify a universal set of environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics that will set a new benchmark for what responsible businesses disclose about their impact on the world. The final set of metrics and disclosures was published in September 2020. We led the ‘Planet’ pillar of the work, which has been conducted in collaboration with a range of stakeholders.
In addition, we have engaged with major global organisations including the G20, OECD, UN, EU and others. For example, we have contributed to a range of consultations on non-financial reporting standards and played a key role at the T20 Global Solutions Summit – a virtual event that brought together leading thinkers to inform policy making by the G20.
When disaster strikes, our foundations and firms around the world spring into action to help the people and communities affected. Below are some examples of the work we have done.
After the devastating explosion hit the city of Beirut in August 2020, PwC Middle East launched the ‘Together For Beirut’ campaign, which saw PwC people from across the region come together to donate, sort and pack food, clothes and first aid supplies that were shipped to Lebanon through a number of local and regional NGOs. Our office in Beirut also participated in clean-up and support efforts in the areas affected.
“The support work helped ease the frustration that everyone was experiencing during these times. Giving back to the community is one way to feel productive and focused since we are currently living in uncertainty.”
In collaboration with local NGOs, PwC has installed 61 transitional shelters for Rohingya refugee families at the world’s largest refugee camp. We have also installed nine washing facilities and five deep tube wells to address refugees’ hygiene and water needs, as well as 81 solar lights to help ensure the safety of women, children and senior citizens. Over 772 Rohingya beneficiaries who did not previously have access to safe and reliable water supply are now benefiting from two deep tube wells installed by PwC in blocks adjacent to the camp.
In addition, primary healthcare shelters supported by PwC in 2018 have been established in the Kutupalong and Balukhali camps. Between June 2018 and March 2020, 100,457 patient visits were recorded at these free facilities. The medical shelters successfully withstood cyclone Amphan and severe monsoon rainfall in the previous two years. To address the need for the expansion of health services due to increasing footfall at the medical centres, PwC will be supporting the set-up of a diagnostic laboratory and toilets for patients at the Balukhali camp. The laboratory will provide free services to Rohingya refugees and the host community.
Director, Global Corporate Affairs and Communications, PwC United Kingdom
Tel: +44 7803 974136