World Environment Day: businesses urged to ‘close the gap between words and action’

Most businesses are not prioritising climate action or protecting nature, according to the latest survey from Business in the Community (BITC).

The Responsible Business Tracker findings revealed that while achieving net zero carbon comes second only to health and wellbeing on the priority list, only 29% of participating companies set science-based targets, a minority (41%) govern the issue at the highest level of the organisation and less than half (47%) set objectives, targets and evaluate the effectiveness of their carbon reduction strategy.

Alarmingly, only 6% of respondents saw the health of nature as a highly material issue for their business – an important point to note in light of the clear links between healthy biodiversity and the spread of diseases, such as coronavirus, from other animals to humans.

The Responsible Business Tracker is the largest measure of its kind of responsible business in the UK with 94 companies participating across 24 sectors. While the research was conducted before the pandemic and is not statistically representative of all UK business, it is indicative of key emerging trends.

Key environmental findings from the Responsible Business Tracker include:

  • 59% of participants identify risks and opportunities related to their carbon reduction strategy
  • 47% set objectives, targets and key performance indicators to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their carbon reduction strategy
  • Less than half (47%) of respondents report publicly on their progress against targets.

BITC is calling on companies to begin the transition to net zero carbon, by calculating their carbon footprint, setting targets and putting together an action plan.

As well as reducing carbon through efficiencies, innovation and behaviour change, BITC advocates investment in carbon removal, as compensation for emissions that the business can’t yet remove, and restoring natural carbon sinks (such as peatland and forests).

Gudrun Cartwright, environment director at Business in the Community, said:

“The potential legacy we leave by not tackling the climate breakdown is terrifying. The same is true for the health of nature, but it is more difficult for most businesses to see the direct links between their operations and the ecosystems they depend on.

“Achieving net zero carbon emissions as quickly as possible should be an important guiding star for businesses to aim at. Rethinking how businesses use resources and rebuilding the health of nature’s ability to both absorb carbon and build resilience to climate risks, are both key components of an effective net zero carbon strategy.”