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Operating as a good corporate steward of the environment is not only the right thing to do, but it's also essential to supporting a high quality of life for our employees, customers and communities. After meeting our 2020 goals for energy, water and carbon emissions reductions early, in 2017 we set even more ambitious, science-informed targets for 2035 — a 75% reduction in carbon emissions and energy use, and a 50% reduction in water use. Additionally, in May 2019 we set a goal to achieve 100% renewable energy use by 2025.
In addition to these specific goals, our comprehensive sustainability program takes a holistic approach to good environmental stewardship, leveraging green building standards, resource conservation and state-of-the-art intelligent building design.
We continue to upgrade our physical spaces with more efficient equipment, such as LED lighting and energy-efficient heating and cooling systems. In 2018, we explored connected devices, including smart thermostats and sensors with real-time smart analytics. This will help us to better foresee and control any operational issues that may arise.
PNC was an early adopter of LEED certification for both our branch and office environments, and continues to design and retrofit buildings to maximize energy efficiency, enhance occupant comfort and efficiently use building materials to reduce resource consumption. To achieve greater operational efficiency, PNC plans to leverage an intelligent building software platform to save energy and improve building performance. The software will integrate energy, building and smart equipment data into a central platform to deliver insights, trends and actionable reports to improve building performance and operations. In 2018, the Innovation and Performance group researched and vetted software vendors and will pilot the program in 2019.
In 2018, PNC completed 15 water audits. We found that our retail operations represent most of our water use, mainly due to year-round irrigation at bank branches in the South. Based on the findings, we will pilot water efficiency upgrades at 20 sites in Florida in 2019. The pilot will include replacing traditional irrigation controllers with weather-based smart irrigation controllers, and replacing old, inefficient irrigation equipment with high-efficiency models.
We created a new commissioning (Cx) program to increase the efficiency of new and renovated buildings. The program fulfills PNC’s objectives to track, monitor and improve the Cx process to meet its business needs and the requirements of rigorous green building criteria. The updated standards and process will ensure our systems are designed efficiently, installed appropriately and operating as intended, based on the latest industry standards.
In 2018, we completed an employee commuting survey to update the metrics we use to calculate a portion of our Scope 3 emissions (indirect emissions that occur in a company's value chain, both upstream and downstream). We previously relied on information from a 2011 survey to calculate average miles traveled, mode of transportation and commute days. We were impressed with the results from the 2018 survey, as we saw large shifts in commuting patterns compared to the 2011 data.
There was a decrease in the number of trips made by solitary drivers, which went from 84% to 69%. At the same time, there was an increase in other modes of transportation, including walking, cycling, riding public transportation and carpooling/vanpooling. This resulted in a 27% reduction in commute-related greenhouse gas emissions. The Innovation and Performance group plans to use this information to help inform employee commute decisions.
Finding new use for what we no longer need is an important part of our commitment to being a good environmental steward. While it's easy to simply throw something away, we'd prefer to put that something to good use, particularly if it helps us decrease the company's overall waste.
In 2018, we donated, sold or recycled 658 tons (100%) of our excess furniture. Of that, 59.9% was recycled, 28.8% was donated, 9.5% was sold and 1.8% was relocated internally. By donating this furniture, which equated to $275,000 of in-kind charitable donations to 11 different organizations, we diverted it from landfills and subsequently reduced our carbon emissions by 1,361 metric tons.
Grounds to Grow On
In 2018, we began a pilot program with Grounds to Grow On, returning our used coffee pods to the vendor to recycle the plastic cup and foil lid and compost the used grounds and paper filter. The pilot has been successfully implemented for each coffee machine in The Tower at PNC Plaza at our Pittsburgh headquarters campus. In 2019, we plan to expand the pilot to our other major buildings in downtown Pittsburgh.
We have been composting at our Pittsburgh properties for a number of years, but ensuring that the collected compost is clean continues to be a challenge. In 2018, our composting audits showed that, though PNC employees did successfully compost many items, non-compostable items were also found in the compost bins. This information will inform more frequent audits and additional employee education campaigns.
PNC met its 2020 30% reduction goals for energy consumption and carbon emissions ahead of schedule and is on track to meet its 2020 30% reduction goal for water consumption.
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Additionally, in May 2019 we set a goal to achieve
renewable energy use by 2025.
PNC has reduced its carbon emissions by
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