The survey results, published yesterday (20 September), also found that 69% of responding businesses, of more than 1,000 surveyed in the UK, think ‘environmental sustainability’ is about cutting carbon emissions, while 82% think it is about recycling and reuse of materials.
Only 36% said they had implemented an environmental sustainability policy, and 15% had implemented a social value policy, dropping to 9% for microbusinesses.
Meanwhile, 40% of respondents stated that implementing a social value policy is not considered a priority at present.
Apparent barriers that prevent businesses from implementing a social value policy included 40% not considering a social value policy as a priority, while 23% said there was a lack of demand from stakeholders.
Lastly, 22% of businesses thought that the costs are too high
‘Ripe for change’
Responding to the findings, John Scanlon, chief executive officer for Suez recycling and recovery UK, said that with just two months until 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.
He continued: “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.
Mr Scanlon added that the aims of COP26 will “only be achieved” if businesses are brought on board, and “perceived administrative and financial burdens” of implementing a sustainability policy are removed.
He explained: “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, added: “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.
“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.”