Mid-sized UK firms urged not to miss out on commercial benefits of green investment

The majority of senior managers at mid-sized UK businesses do not plan to increase investment on green initiatives over the next five years, despite many having benefitted commercially from taking environmentally responsible actions.

That is the conclusion of research from Barclays, which surveyed more than 500 senior managers in mid-sized UK organisations across a range of industries.

Three-quarters (73) of those questioned said they have experienced at least one commercial benefit from investing in green activity. Some (31%) are taking environmental action “because it’s the right thing to do” while others (27%) claim they want “to be recognised as an environmentally responsible business”.

Despite the commercial benefits identified by most respondents, only two in five (40%) indicated they expect the amount they will invest in this area to increase over the next five years and a similar amount (39%) view green projects as “extremely important”.

Barclays corporate banking’s head of mid-corporates Tony Walsh warned that businesses of this size could risk losing out on commercial and reputational benefits by ignoring environmentally responsible activities.

“It’s a mixed picture, with most mid-sized companies taking some steps to invest in green activity, but with much more still to do,” Walsh said.

“If you’re a business leader and the risks and opportunities around the green agenda are not being discussed in your boardroom, you might miss out on the commercial advantages that are available and suffer reputationally, and could be left behind.”

Demands and barriers

The primary barrier to investment identified was cost, with concerns around lack of funds and return on investment. In fact, financial concerns were highlighted by one in three businesses as preventing more green investment.

For the companies discouraged by financial obstacles, more than half (57%) think that the most effective way for these barriers to be overcome would be through incentives from Government such as tax breaks or subsidies.

Regulatory demands were cited by fewer respondents as a driver behind green investment (19%). However, four in ten (40%) do believe that existing environmental rules and regulations have had a positive effect on their business, compared to just 16% who think they have had a negative effect.

Walsh added: “It’s up to all of us: individual companies, trade bodies, Government and finance providers to come together and make sure that investment in green initiatives is accessible and prioritised sufficiently.”

George Ogleby

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