Smaller firms lacking carbon reduction action plans

Only one in ten businesses, of more than 1,000 surveyed in the UK, are measuring their carbon footprint, according to research by the British Chambers of Commerce. 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, carried out in partnership with O2, 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 do not 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%) do not 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.

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.

BCC and O2 have launched a free online hub to help businesses find out how to measure their carbon footprint, set targets and develop an overall net zero strategy. Shevaun Haviland, director general of the BCC, said: “This research is a real eye-opener and shows just how big a challenge the UK’s net zero target is. The dual impacts of the pandemic and Brexit have been a huge body-blow to many businesses, so it’s unsurprising that targeting emissions has taken a back seat.

“The climate challenge is one that affects every single one of us and business has a big part to play in tackling it. But the government must also recognise that smaller firms will need access to grants, subsidies and other financial support to help them take effective steps on the journey to a greener future.”

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