As COP26 concludes, the British Chambers of Commerce has today highlighted how important business will be in hitting net zero targets and the need for Government to build on current plans and set out the practical steps towards a greener future.

The organisation, which has around 80,000 firms in its Global Business Network, believes it is vital that current momentum is not lost.

Speaking after a recent four-day visit to Glasgow to meet with business leaders, politicians and academics on the challenges ahead, Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the BCC, said:

If the UK is to stand even a chance of hitting the net zero target by 2050 then businesses must be put at the heart of the strategy to achieve it. They will be the ones that create and produce the technology to allow us all to live greener lives and will be vital in driving the consumer behaviour required to reach net zero.

“It will also be business that provides one of the biggest dents in CO2 emissions by making the transition themselves.

Everyone understands the imperative, but our research also shows that for many firms, especially SMEs which make up around 99% of all UK businesses, reaching net zero is not a top priority when they are still struggling to keep their heads above water due to the pandemic.

“There is a real danger that smaller businesses will get left behind unless politicians and business leaders come together to galvanise action. 

We know that many larger firms are reaching out to help smaller businesses within their supply chains to adapt and adjust. The BCC has developed a Net Zero hub, in partnership with O2, to provide businesses with a one-stop shop on everything they need to know about setting and achieving Net Zero targets. 

Many chambers are also working with their members to help them develop their plans to become carbon neutral.

“But with so many business sectors making up the economy the pathway to net zero will not be the same in each one – farmers, builders and accountants will all need to take different routes.

What we are still lacking from Government is much of the detail about how, in practical terms, the UK will achieve our net zero target. Clarity and certainty will drive confidence to invest. For example, what support will be in place to reduce or spread some of the costs associated with making the transition.

We need to know how businesses will be supported to switch from industrial scale heating systems; when electric vehicle charging points will become commonplace; how our freight systems will be decarbonised and our energy sources diversified and stabilised; and more.

“Once we have the full picture it will then become much easier for firms to make their plans with confidence and work out how they can finance them.”

Recent surveys of more than 1,000 firms by the BCC have found that many firms, especially smaller ones, have yet to set targets to reach net zero:

  • Nine out of 10 firms have not done any assessment on a series of key strategies for managing a sustainable transition to net zero.
  • Only one in 10 said they were currently measuring their carbon footprint.
  • Two thirds (61%) said either capital grants or tax allowances would do most to encourage them to reduce their carbon consumption in the long term.
  • Most firms recommend the government focus on a transition to more efficient sources of energy.