A REPORT has estimated the value of "human capital" at energy giant Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) at £3.4 billion.

The study, commissioned by Perth-based SSE and carried out by PwC, measured the economic value of the skills and capabilities of the people it employs, in what the energy giant describes as a first for a UK company.

The firm, one of the Big Six energy suppliers, employs 19,631 people across the UK including 6,241 in Scotland.

PwC put to total value of its human capital as of April 1 2014 at £3.4bn UK-wide and £1.12bn in Scotland.

The calculation is based on the expected lifetime earnings of each SSE employee, depending on skills and qualifications, and adjusts for such factors as expected length of time an employee is expected to stay with SSE and for company-level risk.

John Stewart, SSE's director of human resources, said: "Human capital should not be thought of as an asset a company owns, rather it's the people SSE 'borrows' from society which allows our business to operate and to grow.

"This report shows in black and white how both a company and society benefits from proper investment in its workforce through increased earnings for individuals and resulting increased tax payments.

"SSE is breaking new ground with this report which helps us properly understand the economic return on investment and shape our future HR plans and our investment in training."

The report also highlights the value of SSE's apprentice scheme, which it has invested £60 million in since 2007.

PwC estimated that for every £1 SSE invests in apprentices there is an economic return of £4.29, and £7.65 for technical trainees.

However, SSE - a champion of the living wage - also came under fire earlier this year when it was named by the UK government as one of 70 companies that had failed to pay workers the minimum wage of £6.50 an hour.

The power firm blamed a "regrettable administrative error" for the breach, which affected five members of staff.

Alan McGill, partner at PwC, said the report would be eye-opening for the business world.

He said: "Human capital is recognised as a crucial input for every business, and the reporting that we do around this capital needs to be radically changed to give us the insight into how to manage this most critical resource.

"SSE and its human capital results will open the eyes of the business world to the importance of valuing people and investing in them. This work shows how a paradigm shift can be achieved in company reporting and how this can be integrated into corporate thinking."

A report on human capital published in February this year found that UK companies had invested £137.5bn in 2011 in "intangible assets" - more than a quarter of which were workforce training costs.

In comparison, spending on tangible assets such as buildings and office equipment was only £89.8bn.

As a share of total spending, investment in intangible assets has doubled from around 40 per cent in the 1970s to 60 per cent today.

However, the Human Capital Reporting study - a collaboration by five consultancies and training bodies - stressed that accounting practices had yet to catch up with the change, and urged companies to take account of human capital on their balance sheets.