Over half of UK organisations en route to miss net zero target

17 December 2021

Last week, Microsoft UK shared their takeaways from COP26 and a number of environmental sustainability reports with their partners, including Storm ID. The general consensus was that ambition needs to turn into action, which we also discussed in the previous article in this series. Additionally, Microsoft presented some interesting data on how poorly prepared a majority of UK companies are for transitioning to net zero. In this article we’ll discuss the problem as well as some potential solutions.

We’re duly off course

A recent study from University of London that was carried out in collaboration with Microsoft, found that only 41% of UK businesses are actually en route to net zero by 2050. That’s a rather chilling statistic. And it gets worse when adjusting for UK’s legislated target of achieving a 78% carbon reduction by 2035, as only 30% of UK businesses are on track to meet this goal.

The more positive news is that large organisations are in general doing better, probably thanks to resource availability and higher external pressures. What we need though, is for everyone to reach net zero.

Main challenges in transitioning to net zero

When we look at the main challenges according to the UK business leaders surveyed in the study, we can see that many of the challenges are still quite fundamental; getting an actionable strategy in place, understanding requirements and guidance from the government, being able to initiate and deliver the transition, funding it, and leveraging technology effectively (see Figure 1). It just goes to show that we have a long way to go. This is one of the reasons for writing this series of articles too – demystifying a field that so many care about as individuals, but aren’t quite sure about how to approach at an organisational level.

Figure 1. Graph of main challenges for transitioning to net zero according to UK business leaders – based on a study from University of London in collaboration with Microsoft

Puzzle pieces of the solution

Covered in the same research study, and widely discussed in the field, are three areas that we need to unlock in order to effectively transform business impact.

  • Staying up to date on the definition of net zero – This might seem trivial, but as the understanding of net zero is evolving and changing, companies need to keep their strategies and road maps up to date. While many organisations might lean on offsetting, the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) is now calling this carbon compensation, rather than carbon neutral or net zero, which emphasises carbon reduction.
  • Effectively measuring progress towards net zero – The maturity of carbon accounting has been compared to financial accounting if this was based on industry averages rather than company actuals. Needless to say, that is a far cry from effective. Part of the solution is getting standards, protocols and effective tools in place to benchmark, track and report on progress.
  • Supporting net zero – The good thing is that we’re finally at the stage where there’s global agreement on the climate crisis and staying below a 1.5C increase in global warming. We finally have the collective will to make things right. Part of the solution is to unlock both the financial and human investment to do so.

What can you do?

Are you involved in your organisation’s environmental efforts? Could you be? You can have a great impact simply by upskilling yourself and your team, improving your organisation’s capability and making your environmental strategy more actionable. And as a leader – make sure to get the support you need, we’re always happy to have a chat.






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