Cost pressures stopping many firms from taking action on climate change, survey reveals

July 28, 2022

More than seven in 10 West of England firms consider climate change to be a core business issue for them but many admit they need help to do anything about it due to cost pressures.

As a result, fewer than a quarter have taken concrete steps to reduce their impact, such as measuring their carbon footprint or devising a plan to reduce it. 

The gap between acknowledging the problem and addressing it directly emerges from a survey of its members by Business West, the organisation that runs Bristol Chamber of Commerce.

The reveals that the most frequently cited barriers to taking action were factors outside of firms’ control, such as operating from rented premises, or supporting infrastructure not being available where it’s needed. These were named by 30% and 27% of firms respectively.

Another issue highlighted by the survey – and mentioned by just under 30% of respondents – was the need to make upfront investments on carbon-cutting measures at a time when there were many demands on firms’ resources.

Changes with the dual benefit of saving money and helping the environment – such as replacing business travel with virtual meetings, insulating premises or diverting waste to recycling – were more likely to be adopted.

While 43% said they needed financial support, such as access to loans and grants and tax incentives such as capital allowances, to take action, 13 said they found the options overwhelming while a fifth said they lacked the knowledge to decide how to proceed.

Meanwhile, 30% admitted they could benefit from information and advice from a trusted source and 42% said they wanted clarity on how regulations applied to their sector.

Business West net zero project manager Sue Tranter said: “Climate change is a pressing worldwide issue and firms are aware that they can make positive changes now to help mitigate the impact for future generations.

“However, without sufficient support and guidance, it is clear businesses are confused about the next best steps to take to help tackle the climate crisis.”

She said it was worrying that a higher number of businesses were reporting that they needed advice, indicating a possible lack of progression since this time last year, when they were last quizzed over the issue.

Firms’ costs were also under intense pressure as inflation soared to its highest level for 40 years, with accompanying spiralling wage claims, sky-high utility bills and double-digit price rises in many raw materials.

Sue Tranter added: “It is imperative that the government provide further support to businesses to enable them to prepare and adapt for the future.”

Among those taking part in the survey – and echoing its findings – was Bristol language school International House, whose director Val Hennessey said: “We would like to put in air source heat pumps at both our premises, but the costs are prohibitive.”

Business West, the region’s largest group of its kind, is carbon neutral and aims to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030 – which would make it the first chamber of commerce in the UK to do so.

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