Businesses: how to get ahead of the changing climate

7 May 2019
6 min read

We have just 11 years for governments, businesses and communities to cut greenhouse gas emissions by a massive 45%. Yet in 2018, global carbon emissions increased by 2.7%. Here in the UK, greenhouse gas emission reductions stalled in many areas including the business sector. There is no avoiding this issue. We have to ramp up climate action drastically to stay within safe levels of warming. So, is your business ready for the changing climate?

How to prepare your business for climate change

How can your business reduce carbon emissions and increase its bottom line today? There are plenty of actions your business can do to become more sustainable. Here are the top six steps take that will have the biggest impacts…

1. Ensure you are compliant with legislation

Make sure your business is complying: the deadline for ESOS 2 is 5 December 2019

The Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) – a mandatory energy assessment for businesses with over 250 employees or an annual turnover of over £44m – helps identify energy saving measures. The deadline for ESOS 2 is 5 Dec 2019. For ESOS 1, some companies paid consultants to write reports that sat on shelves gathering dust, even though many of the recommendations would pay for themselves in less than three years.  Worse still, companies including eBay, Gumtree and STA Travel were fined for failing to comply with the legislation. Energy conservation is the top climate action.

2. Commit from the top down

We can only make meaningful progress if businesses commit to low carbon operations at every level but most importantly at the very top. Senior board members must prioritise climate change for the whole company to follow suit.

Unilever has implemented a Sustainable Living Plan. It sets out environmental goals including halving the environmental footprint of its products by 2030. So far, Unilever’s sustainable brands grew 46% faster than the rest of the business. It is good for business to go green.

3. Remove fossil fuels from your business

The cheapest form of energy is the energy you do not use. Reducing fossil fuel consumption by using less gas, electricity, petrol and diesel cuts carbon but also saves money. As fossil fuels are the main cause of greenhouse gas emissions, it makes sense to switch to renewable technologies like solar power, especially as there are no fuel costs – sunshine is free.

The price of solar panels has fallen 80% since 2008, making it a more affordable option

Renewable energy generation also delivers financial advantages. The price of solar panels has fallen 80% since 2008, making it a more affordable option. Solar power is usually cheaper than electricity imported from the grid. Low-interest finance schemes can help fund the upfront cost if capital is an issue. Morrisons is one of many companies using solar energy to offset rising energy bills at their distribution centres that have round the clock energy demand. 

The Renewable Heat Incentive provides financial support for organisations that generate renewable heat through, for example, ground source heat pumps and biomass boilers.

4. Switch to electric vehicle (EV) fleets

Switching to an EV fleet will save you money on fuel, maintenance, tax and emissions charges

Upgrading to electric cars significantly cuts your business costs. Electricity is significantly cheaper than petrol or diesel, and maintenance costs are lower as there are no gears etc. Electric cars are also exempt from ‘clean air zone’ charges. The tax regime incentivises buying EVs through Benefit in Kind (BIK), Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), capital allowances and salary sacrifice regimes. 

5. Publicly commit to go green

Maintain momentum by joining forces to share ideas and ambitions. The RE100 project is an example of a collaborative global initiative with a simple goal. RE100 companies publically commit to sourcing 100% of their electricity from renewable sources by a specified year – whether that’s self-produced or purchasing renewable electricity from the market. Aldersgate group also champions sustainable business practises for those companies who want to reduce their impact on the planet and save costs.

6. Become climate resilient

By installing new concrete flooring and taking other actions, it opened after just two days when floods returned in 2015

With extreme weather events increasing, it’s vital for businesses to build resilience into their operations and supply chains. Climate change poses serious safety and financial threats to people, property and infrastructure. Flooding is a particular concern: one in six properties is at risk in the UK. That figure will double as sea levels rise, storm surges increase and heavy downpours break more records. 

But resilience measures can be built into your buildings. The Toy Shop in Cockermouth, Cumbria, for example, took simple measures that made a big difference to the continuation of their business operations. A flood in 2009 forced the shop to shut for several months. But by installing new concrete flooring and taking other actions, it opened after just two days when floods returned in 2015.

A win-win for businesses

A 20% cut in energy costs can represent the same benefits as a 5% increase in sales

Energy prices increase well above inflation. So as well as helping the environment, becoming more energy efficient cuts costs. And it’s no small bonus: Centrica reports that a 20% cut in energy costs can represent the same benefits as a 5% increase in sales. The same report found energy efficient firms are more than twice as likely to be well run and financially robust.

Businesses can also sign up to Demand Side Response schemes, which incentivise customers to move energy consumption to off-peak hours. 

And it’s not just about cost savings. Customers, staff and shareholders are demanding higher environmental standards. Firms using clean technology, such as LEDS, renewables and electric cars increase customer brand loyalty. So sustainable firms have an increasing competitive edge.

A survey published in November by Futerra showed that, overwhelmingly, consumers not only want companies to be sustainable, but also to help consumers live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Lead the way on sustainable business

However big or small your business is, one thing is clear: we need industry leaders to become climate leaders. Every business needs to adapt – for itself and its customers, and for our planet. Whatever your starting point it makes sense to take action today to make your business cleaner and greener. There’s no downside to this – you’ll reap the benefits of every change you make: renewable energy, electric cars, circular economy, energy conservation all offer win wins to you and your customers. One thing is for sure; as the levels of carbon dioxide continue to increase in our atmosphere, business as usual is no longer an option. Acting on climate change is essential. 


The information in this article was correct at the time of writing and is provided for guidance only. Please see the full disclaimer in our terms and conditions.

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