UK in resource driving seat as world falls ‘asleep at the wheel’

Most businesses around the world are "sleepwalking into a resource crunch" but UK companies could turn it to their advantage, according to research from the Carbon Trust.

The survey, which gathered the opinions of 475 senior executives in Brazil, China, Korea, UK and USA, reveals that many are not prepared to address the issue of resource shortages until 2018.

However, the UK is ahead of the game and best placed to deal with a resource constrained world. It spends the most on sustainability and is the most likely to have a programme with targets and reporting practices in place.

Carbon Trust chief executive Tom Delay said: “UK listed companies are better placed than most for the upcoming resource crunch – could this mean that despite the current shift in the world economic order the UK will gain commercial opportunities as competitors in other markets struggle to cope in a resource-constrained world?”

According to the survey, Brazilian companies are the least likely to have a sustainability programme, with 51% saying they do not currently have one, compared to 13% in the UK.

Most consumer-facing companies predict that they will only need to take action within the next ten to 15 years at the earliest, meaning they may not have plans in place until 2025.

The survey found that 43% of the organisations do not monitor the risks to their business of environmentally-related shocks such as energy price rises and environmental disasters.

In addition, more than half of respondents (52%) have not set targets for managing the reduction of carbon, water or waste.

Delay said: “The research shows that many organisations are ‘asleep at the wheel’ when it comes to addressing sustainability and resource scarcity, doing nothing to address a problem they indicate could hit their operations by 2018.

“Too often businesses see taking action on resource and sustainability issues as an obligation and a cost. We know from our extensive work on carbon that good management of resources can lead to new commercial opportunities and thriving businesses.

“Currently, many organisations seem to accept that they will have to make significant changes to their business because of resource scarcity, and that these changes could impact their profits. But many are sleepwalking into a resource crunch.”

The survey also reveals that the approach to sustainability from business-to-business and consumer-facing companies vary immensely.

While consumer-facing companies estimate that on average they expect to feel the impact of resource constraint in ten years’ time, those in business-to-business organisations predict they will need to take action in four years.

The research comes during the same week that UK thinktank, Chatham House, released a report demonstrating that the world is undergoing a period of intensified resource stress

Conor McGlone

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