PwC India’s road to Net Zero

PwC's commitment

In 2020, PwC India joined PwC network firms in a commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030. Our net zero commitment is underpinned by a science-based target to reduce our emissions to a 50% absolute reduction of our scope 1 and 2 emissions as well as a 50% absolute reduction in scope 3 business travel greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 as compared to our 2019 levels. Our commitment is aligned to a 1.5 degree scenario which is necessary to avert the worst impacts of climate change.

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Satyavati Berera, Chief Operating Officer, PwC

Climate change is no longer a challenge for tomorrow but a responsibility for today. We must leverage human ingenuity to create a more sustainable ecosystem – one in which we can not just coexist but thrive. While driving change of this magnitude starts with each one of us, what is crucial is that this must be tackled at speed and scale. Businesses, being the most trusted institutions in society, have a responsibility to lead the transition to a net zero economy – and we are committed to doing just that. As a reflection of our strategy, we are dedicated to meeting the urgency of this challenge with defined steps towards decarbonisation – we are taking steps towards a brighter tomorrow.

Sanjeev Krishan, Chairman, PwC in India
Satyavati Berera, Chief Operating Officer, PwC

The urgency around sustainability is a leveler for all – telling us that a greener world needs everyone’s collective commitment and attention. The ownership lies with each one of us. We know that a commitment is only as good as the actions that follow, and so we are putting together a robust plan which will enable us to make the shift. This journey is essential and requires a behavior shift from each of us – but it’s also exciting because it gives us more opportunities to do the right thing.

Satyavati Berera, Chief Operating Officer, PwC India

Our approach

India is primarily a coal based economy with more than 70% of electricity being generated from coal based power plants. Our conventional infrastructure systems hence continue to rely heavily on such non-renewable sources contributing  to high carbon emissions.

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 minimize 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.

Our commitment to accelerate towards a Net Zero economy by 2030 would encompass reducing our absolute emissions and offsetting the growing emissions due to our  growth in the next few years. This is a challenge we are willing to embrace and are taking concerted actions to decarbonise our value chain. Our approach is based on the carbon mitigation hierarchy:

  1. Avoid - Eliminating our impact by rethinking our strategies
  2. Reduce - Focus on efficiency and eliminate unnecessary contributors
  3. Replace - Pivot towards sustainable alternatives
  4. Offset - Offset emissions that are not eliminated by the above

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. 

Decarbonising Our Value Chain

As a professional services firm, our carbon emissions rely heavily on business travel and consumption of energy in our offices across locations. In order to mitigate the carbon impact and create a circular economy, we are collectively undertaking structural and behavioral shifts supported by design thinking principles to achieve our 2030 Net zero agenda. The sectors we are working across include :

  1. Travel : Encourage our people to engage in conscious responsible travel practices and reduce non-essential travel. These include investing and supporting digital collaborations, replacing air- travel with surface travel wherever possible, exploring local resourcing to mitigate travel necessities. This encompasses updating our travel policies and collaborating with our clients, people and stakeholders to drive down our carbon footprint.
  2. Energy: We are working towards transitioning to renewable energy sources across our offices and pivoting towards EV vehicles to lower our carbon emissions. In the process, we are planning to procure substantial energy in our offices from renewable sources, leveraging the use of motion sensors and LED lighting to reduce electricity consumption.
  3. Behavioral change: We looped in Consulting team from Advisory line of services for assessment of travel behaviors and building the net zero communications and adoption journey towards Responsible Travel.

As a services business, our operations require limited natural resources compared with businesses in many other sectors but we want to do what we can to reduce the impact of this consumption.

The PwC network has globally committed to have 50% of our purchased goods and services supply chain (by emissions) with suppliers that have set and validated their own science based targets.

In accordance with our global agenda, PwC India aims to make conscious choices and cultivate environmentally just and responsible procurement practices by encouraging our suppliers to mitigate their own carbon footprint and participate in accelerating this transition to a Net Zero economy.

As a part of this commitment, we plan to work with suppliers to get themselves registered on ‘science based’. As part of this initiative, we conducted our first Supplier Sustainability Meet on 6 July 2022 which saw participation from over 300 suppliers and respective stakeholders committing to keep this forum running to advance the Net Zero economy.

Together with our clients we aim to accelerate the transition to a sustainable circular economy. We assist our clients in their Net Zero transformation by helping them identify and adopt business or economic activities that add no incremental greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. We work with our clients to ensure they take informed decisions and integrate climate resilient practices by helping them in strategy development and adopting environment friendly business targets. Learn more about our offerings

Our Targets

Our commitment entails the following targets

  • Reduce our absolute business travel emissions to 50% by 2030. This includes travel through flights, conventional cabs (petrol/diesel), and hotel stays.
  • Reduce our emission by fuel consumption by DG sets and company owned vehicles to 50% by 2030.
  • Transition to 100% renewable energy from FY22 and reduce absolute emissions to 50% by 2030.
  • Commit to have at least 50% of our purchased goods and services suppliers by emissions set science-based targets to reduce their own climate impact by 2025.

Building Green Culture

Driving Behavioral Change:

  • Collaborated with our Consulting (Advisory) team to articulate the existing persona types through focused group discussions with partners and staff quantitative and qualitative synthesis, crafted insight presentations on employee suggestions and inhibitions on Net Zero.
  • Designed communication and adoption strategies for Net Zero specific to Indian context

In-house initiatives :

  • Collaboration with Blu Smart cabs for EV fleet starting with Delhi /NCR and Bangalore
  • Adoption of single use plastic mandate. Following are some of the initiatives:
    • Replacement of plastic bottles with glass bottles
    • Use of biodegradable cutlery and crockery in place of plastic disposables and packaging items
    • Office decor replaced with environment friendly options
  • Green Week, promoting and educating sustainable practices among employees

Commitment to Climate Change :

  • As PwC India, we are keen to contribute to the Renewable Energy (RE) development of the country by continuing to buy RE credits from the domestic market and making significant investment in community, landscape and afforestation projects across India. Link here for various projects undertaken.

Risks and Opportunities

  • Business travel preference continues to be inclined towards air travel rather than via trains, including short distances, due to lack of quality infrastructure.
  • Limited opportunities in renewable space energy in India to enable complete transition to renewable electricity in offices.
  • Lack of sufficient infrastructure to pivot towards electric vehicles
  • Enforcement of government policy changes like Single Use Plastic ban, accelerating transition to Net Zero objectives

Net Zero vs Carbon Neutrality

Broadly, ‘net zero’ refers to the goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (often referred to as carbon emissions) and then balancing what’s left by removing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere. Net zero can apply to a business or other organization, a country or the global economy. The terms ‘net zero’ and ‘carbon neutral’ both refer to reducing net GHG emissions and climate impacts and so are often mistakenly interchanged. In the market the terminologies do have differences when referring to climate ambitions.  Over time we have seen carbon targets evolve from mitigating carbon emissions through offsetting (including carbon neutral claims), essentially compensating for emissions through financing emissions reduction projects outside a company’s own value chain, to more ambitious commitments to reduce emissions within the value chain which are aligned with climate science.

Net zero, unlike carbon neutrality, is based on first and foremost reducing emissions, but typically goes beyond carbon neutrality in several areas:

Setting science-based targets to reduce emissions

  • The broader scope of the emissions covered which must include indirect emissions along the value chain (known as scope 3 upstream and downstream emissions),
  • Commitment to neutralize remaining emissions using carbon removal (as opposed to avoided emissions) to reach and maintain ‘net’ zero emissions
  • Engaging in broader advocacy around decarbonisation and climate action

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