When I started writing this piece, we were on to our fourth Prime Minister in six years. But now I have to go back and add another one, our fifth PM in six years. As the great Oscar Wilde might have said, for the Conservatives to lose one Prime Minister may be regarded as a misfortune, but to lose four looks like carelessness.
With another change in regime, climate change campaigners again find themselves holding their breath. Liz Truss didn’t appear to want to put saving the planet in front of trashing the economy. I’m not sure that Rishi Sunak’s green credentials are that much better. Yes, he scrapped Truss’s plans to restart fracking and he did go to COP27, although fleetingly and under huge pressure. The jury is still out on the government’s commitment to meeting the UK’s stated targets on the reduction of greenhouse gases.
However, concerns about the government’s current direction of travel may be alleviated from an unexpected quarter, marked by another big recent change, in the form of the succession of King Charles III. Throughout his life, King Charles III (in his former guise as Prince Charles) has been a champion for environmental issues. He has spent years campaigning for conservation, organic farming and other eco causes. He has become a pivotal figure in the international environmental movement, having backed charities, championed campaign groups and been personally involved in conversations with world leaders about the climate crisis.
Although there are concerns that King Charles will need to dampen down the campaigning zeal, there is hope that some part of his environmental commitment will endure.
But the government still has an important role to play. For the UK to meet its zero carbon targets, extensive changes are required across the economy, in energy generation, transport, business activities and consumer behaviour. Without government-driven legislation, financial incentives and an effective communication strategy, progress made to date in those areas may stall.
With my B2B hat on (given that BIG focuses primarily on business activities), what can businesses do? Well, businesses account, through their use of energy and their activities (energy production, construction, manufacturing, business travel, etc.), for over half of emissions.
The British Chambers of Commerce recommends ten things that businesses should do now to lower their emissions. In short these are:
- Identify the source and scale of your emissions – in order to set a goal, you need to know where your emissions are coming from and calculate their scale.
- Identify opportunities for carbon reductions and make a plan to make those reductions, including a timetable and interim targets.
- Switch to a green energy tariff – this is the quickest and simplest way to reduce emissions.
- Reduce waste through recycling.
- Consider your business travel patterns – with many organisations moving to a hybrid working model, consider your employees working patterns and whether a reduction in travel may help.
- Engage with your supply chain – work with businesses that supply your organisation or whom you supply by sharing ideas, best practice and collaborating on emission-reduction activities.
- Diversify your fleet – if you run company vehicles, government incentives and support are available to help you reduce your vehicles’ emissions.
- Consider carbon offsetting – some emissions cannot be avoided, but carbon offsetting projects can have a positive impact on global emissions.
- Communicate your plans and successes – letting your staff, your customers and the general public know about your progress can have a positive impact.
- Make a commitment, monitor progress and stay up to date with policies, support available and other related issues.
For some businesses (particularly SMEs), only a sub-set of those ten tips will be relevant. Not all businesses, for example, run a fleet of vehicles. However, these are a good guide for businesses and for most organisations at least seven or eight of those tips will be relevant.
Closer to home, athough businesses in the market research industry are not energy producers, builders or manufacturers, there are many ways in which we can nevertheless contribute by reducing our emissions.
In a recent BIG Forum event (‘Saving the planet – how can we in the UK, the business sector and the market research industry all do our bit’) Helen Oldfield of the Market Research Society presented the MRS Net Zero Pledge, which is designed to help market research organisations reach net zero by 2026. In the same event Petra van der Heijden talked about the experience of her company, Motif, in signing up to the MRS Net Zero Pledge and starting on the journey towards net zero.
So, we can contribute towards emissions reduction and it is reassuring that help is available within the industry. While the government’s commitment to the 2050 targets remains uncertain, we should all continue to do our bit.