5 minute read 2 Sep 2021
New commitments by UK businesses will help address climate change. 
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How climate commitments will help businesses deliver a greener future

By Harry Gaskell

Senior Advisor, Sustainability, Ernst & Young LLP

Helping businesses create a sustainable impact and generate long-term value. Angel investor. Marathon runner. Father of two.

5 minute read 2 Sep 2021

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New commitments by UK businesses will help address climate change.

In brief

  • EY brought together business leaders and young people to form the Climate Business Forum (CBF).
  • Explore the 11 CBF commitments that all businesses can put into action.
  • Find out how these commitments can play a key role in helping the UK deliver on its green ambitions.

The entrepreneurial, innovative and financial resources of UK businesses have a crucial role to play in turning the UK’s green ambitions into reality. That was the starting point for a unique collaboration, the EY UK Climate Business Forum (CBF), designed and hosted by EY. It brings together not only established business leaders (who are responsible for companies generating almost £100bn in revenue and employing over 300,000 people), but also young professionals, entrepreneurs and students destined to be future leaders.  

Now, after several carefully targeted discussions, the forum has published a series of clear commitments and actions that can help every UK business to plot a practical path towards net-zero and, by doing so, support the UK Government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. These cover everything from collaboration and transparency to technology investment and circularity, and from biodiversity to employee and consumer engagement.  

The aim of the forum was to produce a list of simple but detailed commitments, that were reached through discussion around three main objectives: 

  • Turn the UK’s decarbonisation ambition for the Green Industrial Revolution into a clear set of actions that can be undertaken by UK businesses within the next 12 months.
  • Encourage alignment between the public and private sector on the actions that need to take place.
  • Create a multigenerational response to the global challenge posed by climate change ahead of Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).

You can read the full report (PDF), which outlines the commitments and actions all UK businesses can take, the areas in which the Government can help to accelerate them, and the next steps for implementation.  

Commitments for action

The businesses that are part of the CBF have pledged to implement some or all of the commitments below. As a bolder ambition, these commitments have been developed to inspire all business in the UK, regardless of sector, size or location, to identify and commit to the role that they can and should play in preventing irreversible climate change. The commitments are all the more powerful for combining the views of tomorrow’s leaders with those responsible for steering business today.  Below is a summary of the 11 commitments that every business should consider.

Set the ambition:
  • Sign up to the Science Based Target initiative (including Scopes 1, 2 and 3), Race to Zero Campaign or equivalent, implementing decarbonisation targets throughout the supply chain, and reporting on progress.
  • Develop a plan to decarbonise and improve the efficiency of the business’s estate and infrastructure.
  • Implement a biodiversity action plan in key areas of the business, or through external ecosystem enhancements projects, and ensure major new developments have a net positive impact on biodiversity.
Invest in operations:
  • Convert 100% of business fleets into zero-emissions vehicles by 2030, with 100% of the power coming from zero-carbon energy, and identify areas for electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure development at major sites.
  • Integrate circular economy principles into business processes.
  • Create and implement a green investment programme.
  • Undertake an assessment of the business’s long-term skill requirements (10-year outlook) and implement the changes required to transition to net-zero.
Educate, report and communicate:
  • Share sustainability solutions on business operations that are common across different sectors to enable all businesses to become more sustainable in a cost and time efficient way.
  • Inform all stakeholders about the carbon footprint of the products and services businesses provide, building in scope and complexity as more accurate data becomes available.
  • Engage with consumers on sustainability and be more transparent on the environmental impact of products and services to help consumer make more environmentally-friendly choices.
  • Train the workforce to support them in doing their current jobs in a more sustainable way.

Accelerating the impact  

Whilst one of the forum’s main objectives is to support the Government’s green ambitions, there are some areas where businesses need to call on support from the Government to have a greater impact. These were identified by the forum as follows: 

  • Set up a taskforce that will work with businesses to determine how government policy can support the transition to net-zero.
  • Promote cross-business collaboration and participation from the public sector.
  • Incorporate education on climate change into lower education curriculums, so the next generation of workers will have an improved base level of knowledge.
  • Support the creation of new partnerships between business and higher education, aimed at meeting the green jobs needs in the future.
  • Provide an increased tax relief rate for R&D investment in technologies supporting net-zero transitions.
  • Match the investment from private sector into innovative technologies or projects to accelerate the transition to net zero.
  • Support development of standardised biodiversity reporting for business.
  • Implement stricter greenwashing regulations with consequences for false claims, for example, new anti-greenwashing rules for the Advertising Standards Authority.

We have presented the 11 commitments and asks of the Government to Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, the UK International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience for the COP26 Presidency and Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth. 

Looking ahead  

The CBF commitments were developed with the aim of being inclusive, encouraging positive action, and forming the bedrock of every business’ sustainable strategy. They are not, however, set in stone. As the UK economy continues to grow and lead the sustainability agenda, these commitments will evolve – adapting, changing and improving. If all UK businesses commit and take action within the next one to three years, the results can not only help reduce emissions and enhance biodiversity, but also act as a boost to the UK’s leadership in green tech and innovation, generating green jobs across all sectors. As was expressed by so many of the businesses and future leaders during the forum’s discussions: addressing climate change is an immense challenge but it can also present a major opportunity. 

EY wavespace™

The CBF was facilitated and guided by EY wavespace™ London Bridge, who are part of our global network of business transformation hubs.

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UK businesses have a key role to play in delivering the Government’s green ambitions. By designing and hosting the Climate Business Forum, EY has helped businesses identify the common actions that they can take to become more sustainable. By carrying these out, UK businesses will help the UK become a global leader in sustainability, but also be better prepared for the opportunities that lie ahead.

About this article

By Harry Gaskell

Senior Advisor, Sustainability, Ernst & Young LLP

Helping businesses create a sustainable impact and generate long-term value. Angel investor. Marathon runner. Father of two.