Small business prepared to face penalties rather than prioritise net zero target


More than a quarter of small businesses are prepared to face penalties rather than meet the government’s 2050 net zero carbon target, given the immediate cost pressures they face. Research of 500 SME decision makers revealed 29 percent would rather take a hit in the future, if it meant they could focus on other priorities now.

While 78 percent are aware of the target, they admit their own part in helping achieve it isn’t their main concern right now.

Instead, immediate urgencies lay with stabilising through the current economic climate, and the growth of the business.

Almost a quarter (23 percent) reckon they have a rough idea of requirements of the net zero target and what they’d need to do – but 17 percent don’t currently know anything about it.

Sebastiaan Van Dort, associate director of energy and sustainability at BSI, which commissioned the research as part of its annual Net Zero Barometer, said: “Organisations have a lot to consider at what can feel like an unstable time.

“These findings show that while sustainability is on the radar, there is a risk of it being pushed to the side and dealt with later, due to the cost-of-living crisis.

“Naturally, securing the future of the business and financial growth is a top priority.

“There are reasons to be optimistic, as the study shows there is a knowledge and willingness for organisations to do their bit for the net zero target, and turn action into ambition.

“Ultimately, those that invest now in making their operations more sustainable stand to benefit in the long-term.”

Despite other priorities, the research found 67 percent are committed to becoming net zero – though 22 percent were not.

And 29 percent weren’t confident in their ability to identify their organisations’ current carbon footprint, according to the data from OnePoll.

Nearly a fifth (18 percent) admitted they have a lot of work to do to ensure their organisation can reach such targets – although 43 percent reckon they only have some adjustments to make.

Further research from BSI’s Net Zero Barometer, of 1,003 SMEs, found only 52 percent of businesses currently have some kind of net zero policy in place.

It also emerged 31 percent see such business changes as an opportunity to enhance their reputation with customers, while 30 percent think it will be seen as appealing to employees.

From a consumer perspective, a poll of 1,029 adults revealed that, despite the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, 73 percent would be prepared to pay more for an item or service if there’s good green credentials on show.

And 30 percent were even happy to always sacrifice quality of the end result, if it meant improved eco credentials all round.

Meanwhile, 83 percent were more likely to be loyal to an environmentally conscious brand.

Sebastiaan Van Dort, from BSI, added: “The importance is not lost on either organisations or consumers of the benefits of being sustainable.

“The difficulty organisations face at the moment is balancing stability and growth in such uncertain times, with developing and changing how they work to meet the net zero target.

“Thankfully, as the research shows, there is desire to act – so when the time is right, implementing change is set to become a higher priority.

“To do so, SMEs will benefit from a clear path as to how they’re going to achieve net zero, not only in their own operations, but also in their supply chains.

“With the right guidance – including the use of standards – businesses are more than able to rise to this moment.”

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