Environment ranks behind health and wellbeing as main business priority

Environmental issues such as the circular economy and net-zero carbon targets have been highlighted as a main priority by more than one-third of UK businesses, second only to health and wellbeing, according to a new Responsible Business Tracker.

Environment ranks behind health and wellbeing as main business priority

The Tracker found that 22% of businesses placed net-zero carbon as a top two priority

The Tracker, piloted this year and published on Monday (29 April) by Business in the Community, saw 64 UK companies participate across 24 sectors with a combined turnover of approximately £105bn and employing over one million people.

The results found that 37% had chosen the circular economy and net-zero carbon as one of their top two priorities, but that environmental issues were still dwarfed by health and wellbeing, which was being prioritised by 52% of businesses.

Business in the Community’s environment director Gudrun Cartwright said: “These results demonstrate that many businesses still do not fully understand the existential risks presented by the environmental challenges we face – both to the survival of their businesses and to whether we hand on a planet that enables our children to thrive.

“Climate change and environmental degradation are existential threats to current business models and future prosperity. However, facing those threats head-on provide some of the most exciting opportunities to create value in new ways and deliver resilient prosperity for businesses and communities.” 

Sponsored by Sky and supported by the Lloyds Banking Group’s Centre for Responsible Business of the University of Birmingham, the Tracker revealed that 86% of respondents had a purpose statement, with 47% linking that purpose to the values of a responsible business.

However, 83% have not yet integrated their purpose across all business departments or set clear team targets to deliver. Only a third reported that performance management systems are in place in integrating objectives across all areas of a business.

As news of net-zero continues to dominate media headlines, the Tracker found that 22% of businesses placed net-zero carbon as a top two priority while 13% had focused on the circular economy and 2% on healthy ecosystems.

In sharp contrast, two-thirds of the UK public have recognised the “climate emergency”, with 76% willing to vote and spend differently to help the planet.

The findings were commissioned by Greenpeace and come as the group unveiled a detailed “climate manifesto”, listing 134 key actions that policymakers should introduce to deliver zero carbon emissions.

Last week, Labour forced a vote in parliament to discuss whether a climate emergency should be declared. That issue is set to be discussed by MPs later this week and builds on weeks of climate-related protests, including school strikes and the Extinction Rebellion movement.

Gudrun Cartwright at edie Live

Business in the Community’s environment director will be chairing a session on the Keynote theatre at edie Live (21-22 May 2019). The way business identifies and manages its impacts on people is a powerful extra force driving progress towards the SDGs, and could unlock new markets and drive growth. In this one-hour session, we’ll hear from social sustainability experts and business leaders on how to proactively manage impacts on employees, workers in the value chain, customers and local communities.

The session is just one of many taking place across four theatres during the two-day show, which is edie’s biggest of the year and a highlight in the calendar for sustainability, energy and environment professionals. Under the theme of “turning ambition into ACTION”, we will be bringing attendees the inspiration and solutions needed to achieve a low-carbon, resource efficient and profitable future for their organisation.

Register for your free edie Live 2019 pass here.

Matt Mace

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