Many businesses are struggling to quantify their carbon footprint, with only one in ten (11 per cent) measuring this number.

That is according to new research by the British Chambers of Commerce in partnership with O2, showing that UK firms are not being environmentally proactive.

Only one in seven (13 per cent) have set targets to reduce emissions, which is down on one in five (21 per cent) when firms were surveyed in February 2020, suggesting that the pandemic has caused businesses to side-line concerns related to their environmental impact.

In fact, two thirds (64 per cent) of businesses surveyed said they don’t see net zero targets as a high priority, and one in five (22 per cent) don’t even fully understand the term ‘net zero’.

Of those that are measuring their carbon footprint, numbers differ based on the size of the business.

Whilst 26 per cent of larger firms are measuring their footprint, only 9 per cent of small businesses are, and this falls to an even lower 5 per cent for microbusinesses.

Over a third (34 per cent) of businesses surveyed stated that the main barrier in becoming more sustainable was high upfront adaptation costs, which may explain why so many small businesses are not taking action to become more environmentally friendly.

In order to help them reduce their carbon consumption within the next six months, the BCC found that getting access to grants was the most helpful step, with 28 per cent of businesses stating they would like to see this introduced.

Following this, 14 per cent of businesses would like to see tax allowances, and 14 per cent would like to see a cost reduction in relation to making adaptations.

Looking to the future, over half (54 per cent) of businesses are planning to reduce their consumption, with eight in ten (79 per cent) citing concerns about the environment as a motivating factor.

Many large companies have already begun to act, with Adobe setting a goal to run on 100 per cent renewable energy by 2035.

Likewise, Toshiba have installed 35,000 sensors to control operations in the business base, helping them to reduce CO2 emissions by 50 per cent.

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.

Echoing these sentiments, Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the BCC, commented:

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 order to obtain this research, the British Chambers of Commerce in partnership with O2 surveyed more than 1,000 businesses in the UK.





Megan McElroy is a second year English Literature student at the University of Warwick. As Editorial Intern for HRreview, her interests include employment law and public policy. In relation to her degree, her favourite areas of study include Small Press Publishing and political poetry.