Deloitte UK is one of the UK’s largest professional services firms, employing 26,000 people. Globally, Deloitte spans 150 countries and territories. 

The aim

“One of the most challenging things when talking about sustainability with your people is that it can feel overwhelming,” says Victoria Gallagher Brown, Partner for HR at Deloitte UK. “It can feel like an impossible problem to solve,” she adds. To tackle that issue, Deloitte’s sustainability team has focused on breaking the issue down into actions that are both achievable and tangible – actions that the people team can help leaders and employees across the business to address.  

How was change achieved?

Take communications and the impact of email for instance, part of Deloitte’s digital carbon footprint. “Every email has an impact, so what we can do to reduce this is to remove automatic replies and acknowledgements from internal systems.” As Gallagher Brown says: “This has the added benefit of ‘reducing noise in the business’ and the busyness of our people.”

This year alone, Gallagher Brown says 130 ideas have been put into practice. “One of our big focuses as an HR function has been reducing email traffic. We’ve reduced something like 9,000 emails that used to go out as standard,” she adds. “That’s great for our people, when meetings have increased so much for everyone post-COVID,” she adds. “It’s thinking about how you can reduce some of that noise and have a positive impact on the environment as well.” 

With a large, dispersed, highly skilled workforce, there is a focus on empowering and enabling staff to make greener choices. “We try to support our people to deliver their work in the most sustainable way possible,” says Gallagher Brown. In a business that operates globally, much of this is linked to business travel (Deloitte aims to reduce emissions in this area by 50% by 2030). While Deloitte is making more use of remote working and is committed to a hybrid working approach, sometimes travel is unavoidable. “When travel is required, we have policies and tools in place to make sure our people make climate-smart choices,” says Gallagher Brown. For instance, when attending ‘Deloitte University’ learning in Paris and Belgium, people are asked to take Eurostar rather than fly, and are transported from the station to the centre by electric vehicles. It has introduced a ‘sustainable delivery clause’ into client contracts to encourage clients and staff to opt for the most sustainable options possible, such as remote delivery, virtual meetings and low carbon travel. 

Deloitte UK uses the website and app tool Giki Zero to encourage staff to take individual and collective responsibility for the planet, making it as easy as possible to make better choices. The tool helps people to track their individual carbon footprint and the impact of the decisions they make, pointing them towards greener actions like using on-site recycling or cycling to work. Deloitte’s cycle-to-work scheme allows employees to take advantage of statutory tax reliefs by choosing to hire a bike through their optional benefits. “We try to make sure we are positively supporting sustainable choices,” says Gallagher Brown. “We are trying to make it tangible for people, so they can make good choices. It’s about holding ourselves to account at an organisational and functional level, but also as individuals to drive these goals forward.” 

How has change affected the organisation?

Deloitte’s use of Giki has helped their employees better understand their carbon footprint. Everyone with the app is given a Giki score based upon their lifestyle, which is ranked against their peers. It gives personal recommendations for improvement, for example by introducing plant-based meals, choosing public transport, or not buying new clothes for a period of time. Since launch in 2021, Deloitte employees have taken over 2,102 actions to reduce their carbon footprint and saved 337 tonnes of carbon which equates to 5,572 tree seedlings grown for 10 years or 863,916 miles driven by a petrol-fuelled car. 

On a much larger level, a particularly impactful piece of work for the HR team has been switching Deloitte’s pension fund, which has 35,000 members, to one that is more focused on sustainability. The fund, which it moved to in 2021, includes £1 billion of Deloitte pension investments and supports organisations and markets that have a positive ESG impact. The decision was popular with Deloitte’s staff, with younger members of staff particularly passionate about the firm improving its impact on the environment. Research from Make My Money Matter has found that switching to a sustainable pension investment fund has a 50 times more positive impact than going vegan.

Each function in the firm has a specialist examining how its department is thinking about and changing its approach to the climate. Within HR, one of the resourcing leads plays this climate champion role, with a further group of champions sitting underneath her within each of HR’s functional areas. Ideas are captured in a continuous improvement approach across the 260-strong HR department.

Teams are discussing the climate change challenge and what the business is trying to achieve. “We’re asking our people to try and pledge individual changes either in their function or personally in their private life that can drive change,” explains Gallagher Brown. “We try to make sure our whole business understands first what we are doing and the size of the challenge, but also how small steps everywhere can help move it forward.” 

“The hope for the future is to put more focus on sustainability criteria in areas from  goal-setting to learning and development. It should become a golden thread that runs through HR.”

Top tips

  • Pointing your people towards greener options will make it easy for them.  
  • Break sustainability down into actions that are achievable and tangible. 
  • View sustainability as a ‘golden thread’ running through all people practices. 

As Gallagher Brown says, “We need to keep educating and encouraging our people to get behind our collective goals so they can help us to make change.” 

The full series

Embedding environmental sustainability initiatives in
your organisation

How companies are implementing strategies from the top-down and engaging the whole workforce

Callout Image