World Environment Day 2020 aims to inspire us all to act to restore the health of nature.  However, the latest findings from Business in the Community’s Responsible Business Tracker show that businesses have a long way to go to close the gap between words and meaningful action.

The Responsible Business Tracker findings revealed that while achieving net zero carbon comes second only to health and wellbeing on the priority list, only 29% of participating companies set science-based targets, a minority (41%) govern the issue at the highest level of the organisation and less than half (47%) set objectives, targets and evaluate the effectiveness of their carbon reduction strategy.  

Alarmingly, only 6% of respondents saw the health of nature as a highly material issue for their business.  This is particularly concerning, in light of the clear links between healthy biodiversity and the spread of diseases, such as coronavirus, from other animals to humans.   

The Responsible Business Tracker, sponsored by Sky and supported by the Lloyds Banking Group’s Centre for Responsible Business of the University of Birmingham, is the largest measure of its kind of responsible business in the UK with 94 companies participating across 24 sectors. The Tracker not only measures the progress made and what needs to improve, but it also provides the support needed to companies to make change happen. 

While the research was conducted before the pandemic and is not currently statistically representative of all UK business, it is indicative of key emerging trends which will be explored further with more participants in future.  Over the course of this year, Business in the Community will also investigate how business responsible business values drove companies’ responses to the Covid-19 crisis and how we can put our economy on a path to rebuilding the health of people, communities and nature, based on that learning.  

Key environmental findings from the Responsible Business Tracker also include: 

  • 59% of participants identify risks and opportunities related to their carbon reduction strategy 

  • 47% set objectives, targets and KPIs to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their carbon reduction strategy 

  •  Less than half (47%) of respondents report publicly on their progress against targets. 

In a factsheet also launched on World Environment Day for businesses who want to get started on their transition to net zero carbon, Business in the Community advises businesses to: 

  • Understand what net zero carbon means to the business. Calculate carbon footprint, set targets as close to 2030 as possible and put together an action plan. 

  • Aim to align the Paris agreement of minimising the global temperature rise to 1.5°C, focusing on reducing carbon through efficiencies, innovation and behaviour change. 

  • Invest in removing carbon from the atmosphere to compensate for emissions the business can’t remove yet. 

  • Focus on restoring natural carbon sinks (soil, forests, peatland mangroves etc) that help to ensure permanent, additional takeback of carbon and/or supporting community projects that help people build better lives by protecting nature. 

  • Think creatively about carbon reduction activities that can make a difference. For example, helping your employees take action at home and at work on issues such as food waste. 

Gudrun Cartwright, environment director at Business in the Community, said: 

“The potential legacy we leave by not tackling the climate breakdown is terrifying. The same is true for the health of nature, but it is more difficult for most businesses to see the direct links between their operations and the ecosystems they depend on. Achieving net zero carbon emissions as quickly as possible should be an important guiding star for businesses to aim at. Rethinking how businesses use resources and rebuilding the health of nature’s ability to both absorb carbon and build resilience to climate risks, are both key components of an effective net zero carbon strategy.  

“It is clear that we need to redesign our relationship with nature as we emerge from the Covid19 crisis. However, it is also clear that there are many demands on business time and energy. If the business community focuses hard on tackling the climate crisis by getting to net zero, harnessing opportunities to rebuild nature as part of their plans, we could restore our planet’s life support systems and give ourselves a fighting chance to leave a legacy we can be proud of.”