Three-quarters of UK businesses 'reconsidering their environmental credentials due to Covid-19'

In a survey of 500 UK-based business decision-makers, almost three-quarters (72%) said that the pandemic has made them reconsider the environmental credentials of their organisation.

Comparisons have repeatedly been drawn between Covid-19 and the climate crisis, with businesses observing issues such as air pollution and supply chain stewardship in a new light

Comparisons have repeatedly been drawn between Covid-19 and the climate crisis, with businesses observing issues such as air pollution and supply chain stewardship in a new light

Moreover, two-thirds of survey respondents said that businesses hold the most responsibility to build back better and more than half (51%) believe their organisation is directly calling on UK policymakers to deliver a ‘green’ recovery as a priority.

The Treasury notably delivered its Summer Economic Update yesterday (8 July), confirming that, of the £160bn earmarked for the nation’s Covid-19 recovery package, £3bn would be directly allocated to the green economy. While many businesses, trade bodies and thought leaders welcomed this move, the overarching feeling is that more ambition must be shown at the Autumn Budget if the business community is to act in line with the UK’s 2050 net-zero target.

The survey was conducted by E.ON in June, in association with market research firm 3GEM. Aside from the above headline findings, the poll additionally revealed that one-quarter of respondents are planning to localise their supply chains within 12 months. Businesses have noticed an increasing consumer demand for products that are locally-sourced and/or from small, independent businesses, E.ON concluded. The energy major also polled 2,000 consumers, finding that 43% are planning to shop with small, local businesses or their stockists in the future.

Moreover, businesses are aware of the environmental, transparency and financial benefits of consolidated supply chains, and wish to boost supply chain resilience in preparation for any future shocks, E.ON claims. These findings are aligned with the topics explored during edie’s recent webinar on supply chain resiliency.

“At home and in business, this pandemic has made us all consider what’s most important, and it’s heartening to see across the nation we’re planning on putting sustainability at the heart of our ‘new normal’,” E.ON UK’s chief executive Michael Lewis said.

Other findings from E.ON’s survey of consumers include:

  • Almost half (48%) of respondents have re-evaluated their personal sustainability habits during lockdown
  • More than one-third (37%) want to make further behaviour changes in the name of sustainability as they adjust to the ‘new normal’
  • The most popular further behaviour change is increased recycling and reuse (85%), followed by energy saving (68%) and shopping locally (53%).

Purchasing patterns

Also publishing the results of polls into changing sustainability approaches during lockdown this week is the Capgemini Research Institute.

In the institute’s survey of 7,500 adult consumers found that almost seven in ten are now more cautious of how their habits will affect natural resources and biodiversity as a result of Covid-19. Links have repeatedly been drawn between the virus’ proliferation and humanity’s historic degradation of nature.

Moreover, 65% of respondents said they plan to be more mindful about the impact of their purchasing habits post-lockdown. The Capgemini Research Institute claims that this trend towards more mindful consumption was underway pre-pandemic, with eight in ten consumers saying that they have changed their purchasing habits in the past 12 months as a result of preferences relating to social or environmental issues.

In the UK specifically, however, the discrepancy between the sustainability demands of consumers and the information provided by businesses was found to be pronounced. Six in 10 business executives claim that their customers are very much aware of their sustainability efforts, but more than half of consumers (54%) said they struggle to verify corporate sustainability claims.

Moreover, due to recent greenwashing accusations, half of UK consumers said they do not trust the product-related sustainability claims of corporations at face value. When asked what challenges there are to overcoming greenwash and scaling holistic, embedded sustainability initiatives, eight in ten executives cited upfront costs or likely impacts on margins.

“So far, many organizations have viewed sustainability as a bolt-on,” Capgemini’s VP for consumer goods and retail Kees Jacobs said.

“However, when baked into an organization’s mission and purpose, sustainability has the potential to entirely change an organization’s relationship with its customers and partners. The pandemic has heightened global desire for authenticity and responsibility, particularly from large organizations. As businesses focus on transformation in the wake of the pandemic, they should put sustainability at the heart of their efforts.”

Sarah George



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