What's stopping small firms from achieving net zero carbon?

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Date: 27 April 2021

A woman reads the results of her potential energy savings

As the government announces ambitious climate change targets, a new poll has found that many businesses are not sure how to reduce their carbon footprint.

The UK government has set in law a new target to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. This will bring the UK more than three-quarters of the way to net zero carbon by 2050.

A new survey of over 700 members of the Institute of Directors (IoD) has found that four in five directors (83%) agree that it is important for their organisation to operate in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way. However, only one in four of those polled (24%) say they fully understand the way in which their organisation can lower its carbon footprint and meet net zero carbon goals. Additionally, a third of members feel that the costs associated with moving towards net zero goals in their organisation are prohibitive.

"The battle against climate change has quickly become one of the biggest challenges businesses face today," said Joe Fitzsimons, IoD senior policy advisor. "Sustainability is an important priority for IoD members, and as many businesses join the efforts to decrease their carbon footprint, it is vital they have access to the necessary resources and tools."

The IoD is calling on the government to do more to inform and incentivise UK firms. "Uncertainty among businesses in overcoming both the costs and the methods required to reduce their carbon footprint proves the necessity for government-led action," said Fitzsimons. "An attainable long-term strategy including green investment incentives, improved access to relevant expertise, and funded reskilling in environmental best practices would be welcomed by businesses committed to navigating sustainability goals … it is imperative that the government does all it can to help alleviate the practical hurdles they encounter."

An online tool has been specifically designed to help small firms find ways to reduce their carbon footprints. The Your Carbon Calculator created by Small99 asks business owners 30 questions, covering everything from supply chains to how employees get to work. Once completed, the tool provides users with an overview of their scores, highlighting where they can make the most improvements.

"Too many small businesses are struggling to find practical advice that actually applies to how their business operates," said Adam Bastock from Small99.

"Getting wrapped up in measurements and numbers takes the focus off making practical decisions … in fact, we often see that a barrier to change is fear of doing something wrong.

"We want to inspire business owners, not put them off. To do so, we need to look at the total carbon budget of the company. From the cars staff are driving to work, to their delivery vans, to what their waste recycling looks like and materials used in their packaging."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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