The discovery of a new COVID-19 variant in Africa in the last couple of weeks is once again disrupting travel plans, creating uncertainty and introducing restrictions. At least most businesses can continue to make working from home a possibility. At PwC in the Isle of Man we’ve long promoted flexible working, but have committed to supporting our people and responding to changing working patterns accelerated by COVID-19 by updating our internal flexible working policy to embed a hybrid working model. This gives staff the flexibility to continue working from home as part of blended working, with an expectation that people will spend an average of 60% of their time co-located with colleagues, either in our office or at client sites.
The increase in working from home has the added benefit of aligning with our commitment to achieving net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030. Using data that we gathered since the start of the pandemic, we estimate that our staff have saved over 20 tonnes of CO2e (Carbon dioxide equivalent) emissions since August 2020 from reduced commuting, which equates to the absorption capacity of 600 trees. Most of the emissions saved were as a result of the lockdown periods in January and March-April, as well as a smaller reduction in July-August when there was an increase in cases in the community.
Our analysis has confirmed the importance of addressing the impact of commuting as part of our wider net zero objectives. The above saving was achieved from staff working an equivalent of just 1 day a week from home, which means that there is further scope to reduce our indirect carbon footprint by embracing flexible working and exploring ideas for environmentally friendly options for staff such as promoting greater use of public transport, walking and cycling.
Our priority of decarbonising our supply chain and reducing our impact on the environment has been underway long before our commitment to achieving net zero was announced in September 2020. Our efforts started with simple and relatively inexpensive changes, such as daily recycling, removal of plastic water cups and print monitoring. They then expanded to include more complicated, costly changes such as moving from gas to an air source heat pump for temperature control, changing to LED lighting, deploying technology to reduce the need to travel off island and moving to cloud technology solutions that have allowed us to significantly reduce the run time of certain IT servers.
One of the key challenges with achieving a net zero emissions goal was establishing our current level of emissions for a baseline year, so we can monitor our progress in the future. This required us to identify the key sources of our emissions, from our office electricity and heating to our business travel and accommodation, ensuring that we have identified all emissions within our scope. The sources of this information were often held in multiple locations, which made it more challenging to capture all applicable data and to the required level of accuracy. Performing this exercise has allowed us to identify changes we can make to our existing processes to allow us to capture all required information in a more standardised and centralised manner to simplify our future reporting requirements.
Despite these challenges, our net zero team of around 20 staff from across all lines of service are coming together as a community of solvers to actively engage with and embrace these challenges, collaborating with the wider network of PwC firms to ensure we meet our target and contribute positively to our local community.
Our net zero commitment is only part of our strategy to ensure sustainable growth of our business. We recognise that to achieve our goals we will need the right combination of skills and technology. In our 24th Annual Global CEO Survey, CEOs put the creation of skilled, educated and adaptable workforce at the top of the list. 36% aim to focus on productivity through technology and automation, which is double the share of CEOs who said the same in 2016. That is why in 2020 we invested more than 2,000 hours digitally upskilling all our people and, as part of our newly launched strategy, The New Equation, we will continue to invest over the next 5 years, making our people more digitally astute, growing their competency with the firm’s digital assets and tools to deliver greater efficiency, deeper insight and high-value services to clients. Our CO2 analysis above was produced by an associate in our Actuarial Services practice and is a great example of how we are bringing together the best of people and technology to solve important problems.
In addition to upskilling our people, our strategy includes making a positive contribution to our society. One of the ways in which we aim to achieve this is by working with schools and government agencies to build a tech-enabled workforce through delivery of a digital education programme. This will provide long-term benefits for the Island’s economy by addressing skills shortages in this critical area, ensuring that we have the talent needed to take on challenges such as climate change and reaching net zero.
Beyond net zero, most businesses have a mixture of anxiety and enthusiasm about environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. The majority of businesses recognise the societal need for change but are overlooking the potential business opportunities that could be taken advantage of in crafting strategy, driving performance and reporting results. Despite companies on the island making progress with achieving their net zero strategies, the ESG maturity level of companies varies widely. When PwC segmented executives responding to a recent survey in the UK according to their awareness and prioritization of ESG issues, their personal commitment, and their belief in the potential for business to positively impact society, it became clear that leaders in most organizations (nearly three-quarters) were in the early stages of their ESG journey. A few companies, though, have begun reorienting their business toward a value creation ecosystem that adds environmental sustainability, employee engagement, external partnerships, and broader societal impact to financial imperatives as measures of success.
ESG isn’t about ticking a box. It’s about making a difference - for the world and for your business. It’s about governing your business responsibly and inclusively to build trust and create sustained outcomes for environmental and societal good.
The majority of businesses recognise the societal need for change but are overlooking the potential business opportunities that could be taken advantage of in crafting strategy, driving performance and reporting results.
As part of our new strategy, The New Equation, we are confirming our commitment to building trust and delivering sustained outcomes. We believe that with our commitments and actions we will continue to contribute to the Isle of Man achieving its 2050 net zero emissions, sustainably growing the local economy, whilst we support and engage with our clients leveraging our knowledge and experience to help them face their challenges, achieve their own targets and reporting requirements.