Britain is currently feeling the strain of high gas prices and supply chain disruptions. With the COP26 climate talks taking place against this backdrop, speeding up the transition to a green energy and transport system that isn’t so reliant on fossil fuels feels more crucial than ever.
Our recent report produced with Energy Systems Catapult, Renewable Nation: Pathways to a Zero Carbon Britain, models how Britain can achieve its target of reaching net zero emissions by 2050. Unlike many other models, it shows how we can get there using technologies that already exist, including renewable energy and battery storage.
As the business sector is responsible for just over 18% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions, businesses must be part of the transition to a greener society – and stand to gain from taking an active role.
The work to end Britain’s contribution to climate change should not be delayed. The urgency to cut emissions is clear, but many of the changes will need engagement from all sections of society.
Philip New – CEO, Energy Systems Catapult
The benefits of adopting sustainable practices
Reducing your environmental impact isn’t just necessary to enable Britain to meet its climate targets in the longer term, it can bring more immediate benefits to your business. Here are just three reasons to implement a sustainability plan:
Gain a competitive advantage
A 2021 report by Deloitte found that nearly 1 in 3 consumers claimed to have stopped buying from brands that they had sustainability related concerns about, and that over 40% of consumers valued practices such as waste and carbon footprint reduction. It’s not just a consumer issue, either. Larger businesses are increasingly examining the sustainability of their full value chain so that they can report on their Scope 3 carbon emissions. If you’re tendering for contracts with public or private companies, having a credible carbon reduction plan could help you stand out.
Become more self-sufficient and reduce your exposure to changes in energy prices
The rise in gas and electricity prices in 2021 has already caused a cascade of difficulties for a wide range of businesses. For example, the shutting of two fertiliser plants due to high running costs exacerbated the shortage of CO2, with knock-on effects for the food and drinks industry, where CO2 has uses including stunning farm animals before slaughter, and preserving fresh produce. Investing in on-site renewable generation or battery storage could help lessen your exposure to peak energy prices and reduce your running costs in the long run.
Attract new talent and motivate existing staff
Collectively, millennials and Gen Z (people born between 1983-1993 and 1994-2003 respectively) make up around 50% of the UK workforce. This demographic is increasingly concerned with the social and environmental impact of their careers. 35% of millennials and 39% of Gen Zs have already made choices about the organisations they’re willing to work for based on their personal ethics.
Five ways your business can work towards zero carbon
The case for a greener business is compelling. But how do you put your ambitions into action? Here are five ways businesses can reduce their environmental impact and support Britain’s transition to net zero:
1. Buy from a genuinely green energy supplier or generate power on site
Britain will need a higher number of renewable generators to meet increased electricity demand. Investing in on-site renewable generation can help make your business more self-sufficient – and you could even receive payments for exporting to the grid.
If you’re unable to generate renewable electricity on-site, you can still support the development of renewable energy by switching to a genuinely green energy supplier.
2. Create a net-zero clause in your procurement policy
Businesses can influence others in their network to reduce their carbon emissions. One way to encourage positive change is introducing a net-zero clause in your procurement policy, committing you to sourcing from suppliers who also have net-zero targets in place.
You could also introduce a net-zero clause into your investment or growth policies, that make sure that any financial decisions are aligned with cutting carbon emissions.
3. Support the uptake of electric vehicles
Electric vehicles (EVs) already account for around 1 in 10 new car sales, a proportion which will only increase as the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car sales approaches. Businesses can play a significant role in driving the uptake of EVs, whether for their own use or supporting consumers. For example, some of the UK’s largest fleet operators, including Royal Mail and BT, have committed to switching to electric fleets this decade.
When it comes to supporting consumers, businesses can become part of the EV charging infrastructure by installing on-site charge points. Increased government funding should provide support with this.
The government has pledged £1.3bn to further accelerate the roll out of charging infrastructure on motorways and major A roads, in homes and businesses and on-street.
Renewable Nation report, page 31
4. Invest in zero carbon innovation
There is a huge opportunity available for businesses to take part in developing the solutions to the climate crisis. From supporting the roll-out of existing energy saving and generation technologies to consumers, including insulation, electric vehicle infrastructure and renewable generators; to investing in research and development for emerging technologies.
5. Introduce strong energy efficiency measures
Cutting emissions from energy use doesn’t just mean switching to renewable sources – it means reducing demand for energy in the first place. Organisations from a range of sectors, from energy to construction, have called on the government to implement a strategy to retrofit Britain’s old and draughty housing stock – but businesses aren’t off the hook, either.
Heating and hot water make up a significant proportion of business energy usage – as much as 60% for businesses in the hospitality and leisure sector. Explore solutions such as switching to heat pumps, installing solar thermal, insulation and smarter heating controls to become more efficient. Find out how your business could increase its sustainability in our energy efficiency guides for manufacturers and retailers.