UK firms climate aware... but taking no action

The UK might be about to host the COP26 climate change conference at the beginning of November but a survey has shown that almost two-thirds of British businesses have no environmental sustainability policies in place.

Sustainable/green office in UK
The survey of more than a thousand firms, conducted by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and resource management company SUEZ, also found that more than 80% of respondents had yet to adopt a social value policy.Yet this finding came despite the fact most companies accepted that social value - defined as the quantification of the relative importance that people place on the changes they experience in their lives - had a positive impact on job creation.The BCC said the survey's findings "reveal a significant disconnect between UK businesses’ awareness of the importance of an environmental, social and governance (ESG) approach, and how many have these policies in place".Some 69% of respondents regarded ‘environmental sustainability’ as being about cutting carbon emissions, while 82% felt it was about recycling and reuse of materials.Yet only 36% had implemented an environmental sustainability policy, and a mere 15%. Four out of ten businesses stated that implementing a social value policy was not considered a priority at present.
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John Scanlon, CEO for SUEZ recycling and recovery in the UK, said that, with less than two months before COP26, the time was ripe to make environmental and social value policies a core part of UK business strategy.“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," he said.“The aims of COP26 will only be achieved if business is brought on board and the perceived administrative and financial burdens from incorporating sustainability policies are removed."Shevaun Haviland, director-general of the BCC, added that the research had highlighted the mismatch between the clear understanding among UK businesses of the benefits that can flow from environmental and social value policies, and the reality of how few actually had these policies 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 said."That’s why the Chamber Network has been supporting its members to find more environmentally sustainable ways of doing business and identifying opportunities to boost their social value impact.“But 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.”

Read more news and views from David Sapsted

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