Encouraging sustainable travel at PwC
How can you reduce carbon emissions through travel in a firm where travel is a core part of how the business works? We speak to Jeff Senne, Director of Environment and Marketplace at Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP (PwC), to find out how his company is tackling this challenge.
“Business travel isn’t going away. As a professional services firm, it’s a core part of how our company operates, so we can’t eliminate it… but we can ensure it has the highest possible business impact with the lowest possible environmental impact. Said another way, we can make sure it is as efficient as possible." This is how Jeff Senne views one of the biggest challenges he faces in his role as Director of Environment and Marketplace at PwC.
PwC is one of the world's leading professional services organizations, with close to 169,000 employees working across 158 countries. Seeing as a significant number of these employees are required to travel to work with their clients, it’s not surprising that it is travel which has the biggest impact on the firm's carbon footprint. In 2011, business travel was responsible for 32% of the company's emissions in the US.
“While we can’t escape the fact that travel is a necessary part of how we do business, we are offering alternatives wherever possible”, says Jeff. “For example, we ask our people to consider whether they could combine trips, or even eliminate some trips and substitute meetings by video conference.
“To encourage this, we’ve made connectivity tools and videoconferencing widely available and have upgraded our own technology. We also pledged to plant five trees for every video conference that took place during the financial year 2011 to encourage more people to try the solution.”
These changes have led to great increases in the company’s use of videoconferencing systems: in 2011, PwC staff and partners held 3,951 video conferences, more than four times the number held in 2010, and planted nearly 20,000 trees as a result.
But it’s not just business travel that has an impact on the company’s carbon footprint: “Commuting makes up another 30% of our emissions, so encouraging our staff to take the most efficient commute is really important to us”, Jeff adds.
“Many of our offices offer public transport subsidies. And last year we launched ‘PwC My Ride’, which serves as a ‘carpooling matchmaker’. Our people can go into the tool online to find other PwC employees living nearby with whom they can share their commutes. We promote it as way of meeting new colleagues, networking and saving money, while also helping protect the environment.”
The tool has proved a hit, with close to 1,500 users registering in the first year. The company is also planning to launch a program to put rental cars at a number of office locations to offer employees and partners the ability to rent a car hourly. The cars will allow staff to use public transport to get to the office, but still have the added flexibility to use a car during the day if they need to meet a client.
“Working out how to reduce our emissions as our business and workforce continue to grow remains a challenge for us”, says Jeff, “but we’re confident we’re making good progress. Our business has reduced its carbon footprint by 20% in four years, only to see it rebound some in the last year and half, so we have our work cut for us to reduce it by 30% by 2016.”