Up to 4 million small businesses have no plans for net zero transition, research reveals

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New research from Lloyds Bank Business found that over three-quarters (77%) of small businesses do not have – or are unsure of – their business strategy to reduce their carbon footprint in the next three years. 

With over 5.5 million small businesses in the UK this could equate to more than 4.2 million having no plan on how they will contribute to a more sustainable future.

Small business owners and managers said a lack of knowledge (34%), finance (25%) and time (25%) were the main blockers to having a defined sustainability strategy.

The research also found that up to 2.5 million business owners do not know what is meant by ‘net zero’. The definition of achieving a balance between the carbon emitted into the atmosphere and the carbon removed from it, was only known by half (47%) of respondents. 

Just one in 10 (12%) small businesses know their carbon footprint and only a sixth (15%) know how to calculate it by converting the expected greenhouse gases generated through activities, such as using energy to heat office space or using fuel to transport goods.

Eight in ten (81%) business owners recognise the importance of being more sustainable, with 68% also aware that the UK Government has set targets to reach net zero. Although, the research showed 40% do not think there is enough support available to realise these ‘green’ ambitions.

Adam Rainey, Commercial Director of Business Banking at Lloyds Bank commented on the findings: “While our nation’s small businesses recognise the importance of tackling climate change, there are real issues with understanding how to get there – including calculating carbon emissions and even the meaning of net zero. 

“Fortunately, there’s a whole host of support available to help businesses make their first steps in becoming greener, from getting started with electric vehicles, practical guides to help reach net zero and tools to calculate potential energy savings at business premises.

“We know it can seem daunting but some really simple things, such as reducing travel and recycling, are also great places to start.”

Lloyds Bank Business’ research highlighted that these business owners struggle with the costs involved (44%), followed by lack of information (32%) and competing priorities (28%).

Younger business owners – those under the age of 35 – are most likely to be concerned about their carbon footprint (50%) and a third (34%) know how to calculate it, 19 percentage points above small business owners as a whole.

For older business owners – those aged over 55 – just under a third (29%) admit to having carbon concerns and are the age group least likely to know how to calculate their carbon footprint (11%). 

Businesses are also unconvinced that the UK Government’s climate targets will make the country greener anytime soon, with two thirds (64%) doubting they will see a difference within their lifetime. The reservation that change will happen, alongside resistance in taking steps to make it happen, appear to be preventing business owners from shifting to a net-zero mindset.

More information about this research is available on the Lloyds website.