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Sustainability part of the wallpaper at PwC

Professional services giant PwC is determined to avoid silos, and according to consulting partner John Tomac, this means sustainability capability and expertise has trickled into all corners of the business.

Mr Tomac says 10 years ago there was a core sustainability function but now the firm “genuinely goes to market according to industry sectors”, so addressing client needs on a case-by-case basis using a combination of the most appropriate skills and capabilities at hand.

Mr Tomac said that as a result of this structural change, more of the firm is active in addressing these social and environmental outcomes.

The company has gone down this path to “stay relevant” and meet the needs of an evolving customer base. Ten years ago clients were sourcing their regulation and sustainability reporting needs externally, Mr Tomac said. Now that this work has been around for a while it’s now “business as usual” and many clients have developed capabilities in-house.

“We don’t want to think of it in silos, i.e. this is the sustainability team, because as soon as you do that you are like a hammer looking for a nail to hit,” he said.

“What we provide is a multidisciplinary services provision. Instead of just having sustainability practitioners, we say ‘let’s understand what the client’s issues are and then help them navigate them sustainability’. Clients need the multidisciplinary skillsets.”

He said responding to the recently passed modern slavery legislation, for example, will require expertise from all over the business, including human rights and supply chain specialists.

Modern slavery is one of several of emerging business areas. According to Mr Tomac there’s also “activity is the climate and energy space without a doubt”, which is largely driven by investors wanting to understand the risks and opportunities they face.

He said that the firm is tackling this in a number of ways, including scenario-based planning. The company will be watching the energy policy space carefully next year with the federal election to “see what we can do to add value.”

Stakeholder engagement is also a focus area for the company. “One of the biggest areas is the big question of trust, and achieving stakeholder trust and a licence to operate.”

The inquiry into the financial services sector is also driving demand for services.

“This is raising questions about how corporates build and maintain trust in Australia.”

He also said that there is increasing interest in the health and safety space. Here, the company is drawing on tools such as predictive data analytics and expertise such as behavioural insights to ensure people are working more safely.

John Tomac, partner at PwC Australia

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