Corporate social responsibility

Our Patron Schneider Electric's report on the Business Community and COP26

The majority of UK & Irish business leaders (68.1%) believe COP 26 will be an important catalyst to address climate change over the coming decade, according to a new report, Powering Change from Schneider Electric.

More than half (63.2%) of the businesses questioned said they will be following developments at COP26 closely to see how they might impact their organisations with the IT/data centre sector placing the greatest significance on the conference. Large companies are more likely than SMEs (70.9% vs 54.0%) to believe COP26 will help accelerate change.

Schneider Electric surveyed 850 businesses leaders (including 600 respondents from energy-intensive industries) and 2,000 consumers in July and September 2021 to develop the Powering Change report. The research also highlighted a sizeable gulf between the optimism displayed by the business community and scepticism demonstrated by the general public and climate scientists that key Net Zero milestones will be met.

For example, less than half of UK consumers (38.0%) believe that the installation of gas boilers in new build homes will end after 2025 – a key deadline for the UK Government’s Ten Point Plan to reach net zero – compared with over two-thirds (67.9%) of UK & Ireland businesses.  And just 30.0% of consumers think it a realistic goal that half of existing buildings will be net zero by 2040 compared with more than twice (70.2%) the number of businesses.

The UK’s Climate Change Committee highlighted in June that the UK is not yet on course to meet its commitments with only one-fifth of the emissions cuts needed by 2035 currently being addressed. The Schneider Electric Sustainability Research Institute has calculated that globally we need 3-5 times more action to meet the 2030 target.

Kelly Becker, UK & Ireland Zone President, Schneider Electric said: “To ensure action can be delivered in the timeframe needed, world leaders attending COP 26 must commit to more ambitious action. Our Powering Change report highlights that businesses across UK & Ireland are keen to invest in programmes to decarbonise, but legislation, regulation, outdated funding models and skills are areas that need to be addressed urgently to facilitate a sustainable future.”

Business pledges

Business optimism that progress is and will be made towards net zero is also apparent to their organisations. More than nine out of ten (91.5%) UK & Ireland respondents said reducing their carbon footprint is a priority for their organisation.  A quarter of businesses (27.4%) said it is their top priority this year.

Reducing carbon is the top priority for:

— 7% of data centres

— 33.1% commercial construction

— 26.9% of industrial companies

— 15.6% residential construction

Two in five businesses surveyed (42.8%) reported they have set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2030.  However, only just under a half of businesses (46.9%) have committed to science-based targets (SBT).  Industrial companies (44.1%) and residential construction firms (43%) are least likely to have adopted SBTs.

Underestimating the size of the challenge their business face to decarbonise could be a significant issue. The Powering Change report has found that almost three quarters (73.2%) of UK and Ireland businesses have not yet calculated their entire carbon footprint (Scope 1,2 & 3).

Likelihood of achieving net zero targets

Only 17.4% of respondents said they were 100% confident their targets would be achieved, almost two-thirds (67.8%) of business leaders rated their likelihood of delivering on their goals at 80% or higher. CEOs (23.3%), CFOs (22.4%) and sustainability managers (20.0%) reported the highest confidence in fully meeting their decarbonisation goals with Chief Operating Officers (6.9 %) least confident.  Age and gender also appear to be factors.

19.8% of 18-24-year-olds expressed 100% confidence in their organisation meeting its climate goals vs 10.0% of 55-64 year-olds.  Whilst women are 50% more likely than men to believe their organisation will fully meet its emissions reduction goals (19.7% vs 13.8%).

More action and accountability needed

Whilst climate action is a priority for the majority of UK & Ireland businesses, more than two-thirds (68.8%) believe their organisation needs to act more quickly to reduce its carbon footprint.

Skills and resource is a concern for businesses trying to reduce their carbon footprint. Only six out of ten (61.8%) of respondents were confident their organisation has the necessary know-how and manpower to tackle decarbonisation.  Less than half of small businesses (49.8%) and residential construction firms (49%) reported confidence they had the skills in place.

A third of businesses (35.9%) say they are waiting for formal guidance or government legislation to implement sustainability plans.

Struggling to access government funding or incentives has delayed deployment of decarbonisation plans for 37.0% of businesses, and almost a fifth (18.2%) of organisations failed to secure funding because their preferred solution did not fit current criteria.

The speed of innovation is already proving to be a challenge for government bodies, but there is a clear need to enable a model which is not weighted towards potentially older or outdated technology.

Finally, fewer than two thirds (60.5%) of respondents believed their business leaders would be held to account if their organisation failed to meet its decarbonisation goals.


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