UK businesses unprepared for net-zero transition

25th January 2021

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Ross Phillips

Most UK businesses are supportive of the government's plans for a net-zero economy by 2050, but don't know what the implications for their organisations will be, the British Standards Institution (BSI) has found.

After surveying 1,000 senior decision makers and sustainability professionals, the BSI found that seven out of 10 have made, or are considering making, a solid commitment to achieve the net-zero goal.

However, 64% were not confident that they fully understood what impact it could have on their firm, while 82% said that they require more guidance to achieve the target.

The findings also show that support for the goal dwindles among small businesses, with just one in five having committed to a net-zero target, compared to half of larger firms.

With smaller companies accounting for 99.9% of all UK businesses, and half of business-related emissions, the BSI said that this lack of commitment could severely undermine overall net-zero progress.

“Despite the pressures posed by the pandemic, it is incredibly positive that there is growing, wide-spread commitment from business leaders to achieve net zero by 2050,” said Scott Steedman, director-general for standards at the BSI.

“We call for organizations of every size across every industry to join us in shaping the best practices that will accelerate the journey to net zero and create a healthier and more sustainable world for the coming generations.”

Although supportive of net zero, the survey also found that nearly seven out of 10 firms have seen their plans to achieve carbon neutrality pushed back by COVID-19, as other corporate priorities have taken centre stage.

A difficult year is also reflected in what businesses see as the largest barrier to achieving net zero, with 44% identifying cost as their greatest hurdle to overcome, followed by clarity on what the target really means.

Survey respondents from IT and manufacturing firms were the most likely to report that their organization has committed to net zero, also showing the most awareness.

Healthcare and education sectors exhibited a comparative lack of awareness regarding target setting, with just 26% and 22% of respondents respectively aware of whether their organization had committed to net zero in some form.

The BSI said that the COVID-19 pandemic will have impacted both these sectors significantly, which could explain this relative lack of target setting in 2020.

“As the UK's national standards body, the BSI is ideally positioned to partner with organizations to build a standards strategy for them and their sectors that will support their sustainability ambitions,” Steedman added.

Image credit: iStock


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