Reducing plastics in our offices

The scale and severity of the global impact of plastics pollution on marine life, the food chain and ultimately human health has culminated in a widespread call to action – from international organisations, the UN, the UK Government – and our own people.

Our approach

In response, we’ve taken an ambitious approach to radically reducing plastic consumption in our 23 UK offices, employing a firm-wide strategy to cut single-use plastics across our workplaces.

By engaging stakeholders at every level, building a powerful sustained communications campaign and fostering highly collaborative partnerships with our supply chain partners we’re taking direct, positive, meaningful action – and inspiring others across our global network to follow.

Truly embedding a long-term operational and cultural shift away from plastics in the workplace requires a cohesive, firm-wide approach.

So in January 2018 we assembled key stakeholders in our value chain to review practices, collaborate, devise and implement viable best-practice solutions and establish sustainability principles.

Led by EY’s Environment Manager, we conducted a full review of plastic items in all workplace functions, focussing initially on the rapid elimination of high volume single-use plastics for maximum impact.

What we’ve achieved so far

Our approach has enabled the adoption of environmentally and financially sustainable initiatives that eliminated 91.3% of single-use plastic consumable products in the first 8 months of the project.

Measures so far include:

  • Catering consumables

    Switching 1.2 million plastic catering consumables (for example, cutlery, food packaging) to biodegradable alternatives.

  • Disposable cups

    Replacing 6.5 million plastic and paper-based disposable cups from our working floors with reusable cups and bottles.

  • Addtional charges

    Encouraging our people to bring their reusable cups when they buy hot drinks from our coffee shops by charging for disposable ones and donating a portion of the profit to a marine conservation charity.

  • Stationery items

    Sourcing non-plastic alternative products and switching from new to reconditioned products where available.

  • Corporate merchandise

    Eliminating non-essential plastic items and branded plastic carrier bags, and switching to biodegradable packaging.

  • Meetings

    Developing a sustainable meetings guide for event organisers.

In October 2018, our actions were recognised when we won Footprint’s Waste2Zero award for Best Waste Management Project (non-food) and were runners up in the Best Waste Prevention Project (non-food) category

The future

We’re now looking to address all remaining single-use plastic products. We’re also continually evaluating new plastic-free products and process innovations coming to market for potential use in our workplaces, with examples under consideration including:

  • Installation of ‘reverse vending’ machines in restaurants and coffee shops to encourage recycling of plastic bottles, including those bought outside the office
  • Innovative edible food and drink packaging products made from plant-based materials such as seaweed
  • Developments in anaerobic digestion processes to enable separate collection of high volumes of plant-based biodegradable food packaging waste from our sites.