As part of the Race to Zero, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), in collaboration with energy company Drax Group, is calling on the government to use the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement to work in partnership with businesses to achieve the UK’s climate goals, as many firms continue to manage the impact of Coronavirus. 

 

A recent BCC survey of 527 found: 

·         Unprecedented challenges this year (32%) have created barriers to climate progress for firms

·         Slightly fewer businesses are measuring their carbon footprint or greenhouse emissions against targets than in February 2020

·         Research by Drax found that 68% of business leaders claimed that lockdown restrictions have made them more environmentally conscious 

 

Financial barriers to progress

Almost a third (32%) of respondents said climate goals were not a priority currently, likely because of the unprecedented challenges companies have faced this year. 

Many of the barriers to progress were financial. 28% of respondents cited a lack of government grants, and 26% highlighted the lack, and price, of low carbon alternatives as well as diminished company finances, made worse by the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. 24% of respondents cited a lack of favourable tax rates, credits or allowances.  

However, there is an appetite among business leaders to make their companies greener. Research carried out by energy company Drax, which surveyed 1,250 mainly SME business leaders, found that just over two-thirds of respondents (68%) claimed that lockdown restrictions have made them more environmentally conscious. Nearly three fifths said the importance of sustainability and/or climate change has increased since the outbreak of Coronavirus. 

 

Business Targets and Measures 

15% of respondents are using reduction targets, slightly down from 21% in February.  

When asked which measures, if any, firms were planning to use to reduce their carbon footprint: 

·         65% of respondents cited recycling 

·         51% of respondents cited reducing paper consumption 

·         48% of respondents cited the use of LED lights 

·         42% of respondents cited a reduction in car journeys 

·         40% of respondents cited reducing plastic consumption 

 

Towards COP 26

Survey respondents demonstrated a low level of awareness of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26), which was postponed in April this year and is due to happen next year in Glasgow. 

Nearly one third of firms had never heard of the Conference, and 38% knew only the name. Just under one tenth (9%) of business respondents knew a lot of details about the Conference, with 1% actively engaging in COP 26. 

While levels of understanding may be low, the conference represents an important opportunity for government to work with business and industry leaders to recommit themselves to tackling the climate crisis and make real strides toward net zero targets. 

 

Responding to the results, BCC Director General Adam Marshall said:

“With many firms simply trying to stay afloat as they weather the Coronavirus storm and the end of the Brexit transition period, it’s no surprise that many firms simply haven’t had the bandwidth to engage on the drive to net zero.  

“Our research reinforces the need for a sustained and visible partnership between government and business to achieve the UK’s climate goals – and a clearer action plan from the top.  

“There are simple steps that businesses can take to reduce their impact on the environment that also make good business sense, but our research makes it clear that many SMEs need better information and support to help them invest in changes to reduce their carbon footprint.” 

 

Responding to the results, Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner, said:

“Despite the unprecedented challenges businesses face as a result of Covid, many recognise the need to remain environmentally focussed in the face of the climate crisis, even if they haven’t engaged with the Race to Zero yet. 

“With COP26 happening in Glasgow in just 12 months’ time, there is a unique opportunity for the government and businesses to come together and demonstrate to the world how the UK is continuing to innovate and collaborate to address the climate emergency.

“As part of our ambition to deliver negative emissions through biomass and carbon capture, Drax can play its part in partnership with Government to support our crucial local supply chains.

“With renewable electricity, smart meters and new EV services, Drax is already empowering and supporting its business energy customers to be more sustainable. With the government’s continued climate leadership, together we can support the environment and a post-Covid economic recovery.”