Survey: Majority of British businesses set to ramp up staff energy efficiency training

That is according to the latest edition of NatWest’s Sustainable Business Tracker. Published today (19 October), the Tracker is based on quarterly surveys of 850 SMEs across the UK, predominantly in the manufacturing and service provision industries. A representative survey of large British businesses, with 250 or more staff, is also included.

The tracker reveals that, when it comes to specialist sustainability-related training, the preferred option for small and large firms alike is training on energy efficiency. 53% of the SMEs polled said they have either started training staff in energy efficiency or plan to do so in the next year. The proportion stood at 78% for large businesses.

It is forecast that wholesale energy prices in the UK are likely to stay high into 2024 at least, with the increase in gas prices set to be longer-term. Some 40% of the UK’s electricity generation is gas-fired, meaning that high gas prices impact electricity prices. The Government is bringing forward measures to decouple wholesale gas and electricity prices, so that energy users opting for renewable and/or nuclear electricity see a discount.

Natwest did record that some manufacturers had also, as well as improving efficiency in processes, instructed design teams to alter product designs to help reduce their embedded energy consumption and carbon emissions.

The survey did, however, reveal some causes for concern. The prioritisation of environmental sustainability at most of the SMEs surveyed was found to have decreased on the last quarter, with many stating that increasing costs and lower consumer spending were making it challenging to deliver environmental plans or initiatives.

The current economic challenges, the survey suggests, are impacting large businesses’ sustainability plans to a lesser degree. 76% of the large firms surveyed said improving – and delivering – decarbonisation plans relating to energy was a high priority, up from 73% at the last edition of this Tracker.

Earlier this week, new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed that the Treasury will review options for adapting or closing the Energy Bill Relief Scheme once its initial six-month duration concludes in April 2023. He stated that the next phase will be more targeted and there will be a mechanism to incentivise businesses for improving energy efficiency.

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