Net Zero and Covid-19 Reopening Survey

Research published in August 2021 by the BCC, in partnership with O2, has found:

  • Only one in ten (11%) businesses, of more than 1,000 surveyed in the UK, are measuring their carbon footprint.
  • The vast majority have yet to put targets in place to reduce their emissions
  • Despite this, half of respondents believe their customers are worried about the environment
  • Larger firms are far more likely to be taking action than micro firms.
  • Cost is considered the biggest barrier

The findings in more detail are set out below.

Research by the British Chambers of Commerce, in partnership with O2, has found that only one in ten (11%) responding businesses, of more than 1,000 surveyed in the UK, are measuring their carbon footprint.

This falls to 9% for small businesses, and 5% for microbusinesses, with fewer than 10 employees. By contrast 26% of larger firms, with more than 50 employees, are measuring their footprint.

The research also showed only one in seven (13%) have set targets to reduce their emissions – down from one in five (21%) when firms were surveyed before the pandemic in February 2020.

In addition, almost two thirds (64%) of businesses surveyed say they don’t see net zero targets as a high priority in the wake of the pandemic, although half (49%) admit their customers are worried about the environment.

The findings also show that one in five businesses (22%) don’t fully understand the term ‘net zero,’ and almost a third have yet to seek advice or information to help them develop a net zero roadmap or improve their environmental sustainability.

With the impacts of the pandemic and other priorities weighing heavily on small and medium sized businesses, the research found that smaller firms were far more likely to be behind on climate action. When it came to setting carbon reduction targets, 27%of larger firms have done so, compared to just 9% of microbusinesses.

Barriers and required support

The main barriers preventing respondents from making their business more sustainable are high upfront adaptation costs (34%) and a lack of finance (30%).

Getting access to grants (28%), tax allowances (14%) and reducing the costs of making adaptations (14%) were cited as the three steps businesses would most like to see to help them reduce their carbon consumption within the next six months.

While 13% said they would like access to impartial, bespoke advice with an action plan – and almost a third said they look online for advice on net zero and environmental sustainability.

Taking action on emissions

Despite a lack of awareness on carbon footprints, many firms are still taking a wide variety of positive actions to reduce their emissions and become greener.

Over the next 12 months, 54% of businesses surveyed are planning to reduce their consumption (e.g. of paper, food and plastics), 47% are planning to reduce the energy they use through travel, and 40% are planning to reduce the energy used at their offices and premises. Of those looking to take action, eight in ten (79%) cite concern about the environment as the motivating factor, followed by efficiency gains or cost savings (cited by 59%).

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