As few as 10 per cent of businesses are measuring their carbon footprint, according to research published this week by the British Chambers of Commerce.
They, in partnership with O2, surveyed more than 1,000 in the UK to find that falls to nine per cent for small businesses, and five per cent for micro businesses with fewer than 10 employees.
By contrast, 26 per cent of larger firms – those with more than 50 employees – did report initiatives to measure their footprint.
The research also showed only one in seven have set targets to reduce their emissions – down from one in five when firms were surveyed before the pandemic in February 2020.
And almost two thirds say they don’t see net zero targets as a high priority in the wake of the pandemic, although half of them admit that their customers may do.
The findings also show that one in five businesses 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.
The main barriers to sustainability are high upfront adaptation costs, lack of finance, access to grants and tax allowances.
Even so, many firms are still taking a wide variety of positive actions to become greener with over half planning to reduce their consumption of paper, food and plastics for example, and nearly as many planning to reduce the energy they use through travel.
In response, the British Chambers of Commerce and O2 have launched an online hub to help businesses find out how to measure their carbon footprint, set targets and develop an overall net zero strategy.
Jo Bertram, Managing Director, Business & Wholesale at Virgin Media O2 said: “In May, the Government called on small businesses to lead the charge and pledge to reach net zero by 2050 or sooner, but our research shows that to do this, they need more support. From microbusinesses to larger firms, SMBs have told us they’re concerned about the environment, but in the wake of lockdowns and growing economic pressures, the majority are understandably facing barriers to improving their sustainability.
the Government must also recognise that smaller firms will need access to grants, subsidies and other financial support to help them take effective steps
“Small businesses make up 99 per cent of the UK’s business landscape, and we’re committed to helping them cut their collective carbon footprint and play their part in building a cleaner, greener future.”
BCC Director General Shevaun Haviland 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.
“But change has to come, and our Net Zero Hub makes clear that the earlier firms adapt then the greater the advantages will be – they cannot afford to get left behind.
“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.”
In 2020, O2 became the only mobile network operator in the UK to commit to net zero operations by 2025.
More on the new Net Zero Hub here
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