Two thirds of businesses have no plan for sustainability

Fewer than one in 12 businesses have a plan to reach net zero – despite this being official Government policy.

August Graham
Monday 20 September 2021 00:01 BST
Companies have yet to catch up with the Government’s ambitions. (Liam McBurney/PA)
Companies have yet to catch up with the Government’s ambitions. (Liam McBurney/PA)

Only around a third of businesses in the UK have an environmental sustainability policy, according to new research.

A survey by recycling group Suez and the British Chambers of Commerce found that 64% of around 1,000 businesses surveyed said they had no such plan.

Overall only 8% of companies had a net-zero plan which would make them emit less greenhouse gas than they absorb.

The smaller a business is, the less likely it is to have a net zero plan or any environmental sustainability policy.

It puts them at odds with the country as a whole, which the Government has planned to get to net zero by 2050.

Yet businesses in the UK are responsible for a large portion of the country’s environmental impact.

Between two thirds and three quarters of the waste – both recycling and landfill – that is put in British bins comes from companies.

In November, the Government will host the next United Nations climate conference Cop26. This means the “time is ripe for a sea-change” to make businesses focus more on environmental and social value policies, said Suez chief executive John Scanlon.

But the efforts will need Government leadership, he added.

“Businesses are looking to Government for a supportive regulatory framework that will help accelerate a green recovery and promote business growth that not only benefits our economy and jobs, but that also enriches local communities and protects the environment,” Mr Scanlon said.

“There is a clear need for top-down support to help unite firms across the supply chain, given the disconnect between business awareness of the value from both environmental and social value policies, and the overwhelming lack of any such policies being in place.

“There is no long-term future for business if short-term profit is chased at the expense of long-term environmental and social value policy planning.”

British Chambers of Commerce director general Shevaun Haviland said: “This research shines a light on the mismatch between the clear understanding among UK businesses of what benefits can flow from environmental and social value policies and the reality of how many actually have these in place.

“Given the huge upheavals they have endured over the past 18 months it is perhaps understandable that these have not been a priority. Yet the consequences firms will face if they fail to adapt for the future cannot be ignored.”

She added: “Government also needs to help business help themselves, especially those smaller firms who remain understandably concerned about perceived extra costs and red tape if they want to change. This is not only a matter of a greener future for business – it’s about ensuring a brighter future for everyone.”

It comes as BT Group announced it is bringing forward its net zero target from 2045 to 2030 for its own operational emissions and 2040 for its supply chain and customer emissions.

Andy Wales, chief digital impact & sustainability officer at BT Group said: “As the world looks to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, we must remember that the global climate emergency hasn’t gone away.

“BT is committed to climate action and today’s announcement will see us not just deliver on our public commitments to date but exceed them.”

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