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Survey finds businesses have yet to enact environmental or social value strategy as COP 26 looms

Research published today by the British Chambers of Commerce and SUEZ reveals a significant disconnect between UK businesses’ awareness of the importance of an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) approach and how many have these policies in place.

  • National business survey finds two thirds (64%) of businesses have no environmental sustainability policy
  • Survey also finds that over 8 out of 10 businesses surveyed have no social value policy yet are aware social value has a positive impact on job creation
  • 7 out of 10 (69%) of respondents overall say an environmental led approach is predominantly about cutting carbon emissions
  • Most respondents (82%) consider recycling and reusing items or materials to represent ‘environmental sustainability’.

The survey found that nearly seven out of 10 (69%) responding businesses, of more than 1,000 surveyed in the UK, think ‘environmental sustainability’ is about cutting carbon emissions, while most respondents (82%) think it is about recycling and reuse of materials. Yet only 36% said they had implemented an environmental sustainability policy, and 15% had implemented a social value policy, dropping to 9% for microbusinesses.

Four out of ten (40%) of responding businesses stated that implementing a social value policy is not considered a priority at present.


Other highlights of the research include:

  • 71% think social value is about having a positive impact on employee welfare or job creation
  • 46% think it is about a having a positive economic impact
  • 64% of businesses trust their suppliers to adhere to sustainability and social value policies
  • Barriers to implementing a social value policy
  • 40% do not consider implementing a social value policy is a priority at present
  • 23% think there is lack of demand from stakeholders – staff, customers and their own boards
  • 22% think the costs are too high

John Scanlon, Chief Executive Officer for SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, said:

“With just two months until the UK hosts COP26 the time is ripe for a sea-change in approach to make environmental and social value policies a core part of UK business strategy.
“Businesses are looking to Government for a supportive regulatory framework that will help accelerate a green recovery and promote business growth that not only benefits our economy and jobs, but that also enriches local communities and protects the environment.
“There is a clear need for top-down support to help unite firms across the supply chain, given the disconnect between business awareness of the value from both environmental and social value policies, and the overwhelming lack of any such policies being in place. There is no long-term future for business if short-term profit is chased at the expense of long-term environmental and social value policy planning.
“The aims of COP26 will only be achieved if business is brought on board and the perceived administrative and financial burdens from incorporating sustainability policies are removed. Uniting business is essential if we are collectively to meet the objectives of this November’s global climate conference– to bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the BCC, said:

“This research shines a light on the mismatch between the clear understanding among UK businesses of what benefits can flow from environmental and social value policies and the reality of how many actually have these in place.
“Given the huge upheavals they have endured over the past 18 months it is perhaps understandable that these have not been a priority. Yet the consequences firms will face if they fail to adapt for the future cannot be ignored.
“That’s why the Chamber Network has been supporting its members to find more environmentally sustainable ways of doing business and identifying opportunities to boost their social value impact.
“But government also needs to help business help themselves, especially those smaller firms who remain understandably concerned about perceived extra costs and red tape if they want to change. This is not only a matter of a greener future for business – it’s about ensuring a brighter future for everyone.”