If one positive can be taken from the events of 2020 so far, it’s the glimpse lockdown gave us all of a low-carbon future; with emissions down, cleaner air, and renewables successfully powering our homes and businesses.
Little wonder then, that while actively pursuing decarbonisation stalled during the Covid-19 crisis, the reopening of our economy has brought with it a renewed focus on net zero goals.
But while businesses, industry bodies and action groups are increasingly calling for sustainability to be placed at the heart of a ‘green recovery’, clear guidance and meaningful support for organisations who want to take their own strides towards net zero is yet to be provided by UK policymakers.
It is undeniable that businesses have a crucial role to play in helping our nation achieve the carbon neutral status government has legislated for. Yet unfortunately, for the moment at least, there’s an absence of any major net zero stimulus.
So while it’s difficult to predict the finer details that will make up the Energy Whitepaper that we are promised this autumn – or to know exactly what will be contained in the Net Zero Review now due in Spring 2021 – we are hopeful that together, these reports will go some way to plotting a clear and achievable roadmap to net zero.
In the interim, there are some things we do know about the actions businesses are taking, and planning to take, on their own decarbonisation journeys – and about the help they will need along the way.
When we reviewed the results of recent research used to compile our ‘Your Business Blueprint - The road to Net Zero’ report, there were three key facts that stood out:
- Businesses want to play their part
Perhaps one of the most important things to recognise about the role of UK businesses in our net zero transition is that it is a role many come to willingly. Even in energy intensive sectors like manufacturing, where decarbonisation will be a complex undertaking, the companies we spoke to are keen to play their part.
The businesses taking part in our research overwhelmingly agreed that the UK government’s 2050 net zero target was realistic – and that their business would benefit from the changes required during the transition.
Indeed, many organisations are already investing in low carbon technologies – such as onsite renewable generation, electric vehicles and smart energy management systems – while others have clear plans to do so.
The overarching impression is one of a business community already taking the initiative on climate action, and ready to take the next steps towards net zero.
- Businesses need incentives and funding
Optimism and a willingness to participate were primary themes within our Business Blueprint research results.
But while businesses have already proven themselves willing to spend their own funds or seek outside investment for new sustainability projects, a further important message which came from the research was that they would welcome additional governmental support. Many are looking to the forthcoming Energy Whitepaper, Consumer Spending Review and Net Zero Review to provide this.
With Covid-19 placing additional pressure on businesses already facing the financial strain of Brexit alongside the challenges of an increasingly competitive commercial world, it’s not surprising that many are expecting the government to incentivise investment and provide better access to funding.
Businesses are also, for the most part, realistic about the limitations of this; understanding that there would need to be a general level of taxation or extension of current climate obligations in order to deliver the levels of funding required.
- Businesses want a clear roadmap to net zero
Aside from help to secure funding, businesses who responded to our research also told us that they need a different kind of support for sustainability action: a clear, achievable roadmap to net zero.
One unfortunate fact which emerged was that only a third of businesses currently feel confident that government will develop a realistic plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
And while the majority of respondents agreed that they felt clear on the role businesses will play, many businesses still need a better understanding of exactly what is expected of them during the transition – and what they would need to report.
The need for clarity from government becomes more pressing where businesses are facing their own challenges to decarbonisation, such as a lack of internal resources needed to drive plans forward, or a lack of best practice standards for their specific sector.
Making sure business’s voices are heard
To support businesses in ensuring their voices are heard as the government shapes our nation’s net zero plans, we will submit our full Business Blueprint report to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
It serves to illustrate the guidance that many UK organisations are asking for, especially in terms of incentives and mandates to enable them to effectively plan for a cleaner, greener and more sustainable future.
There is a real willingness from UK business to embrace net zero – they just need the policy clarity to help them achieve it.
For a free copy of Your Business Blueprint - The road to Net Zero, click here to download.
In the meantime, if you have any questions or want to talk about the support we can offer your business, please contact your Client Lead (existing customers). Or email us at nBS@npower.com.