Environmental concerns have been climbing up the political agenda for several decades now – and this ascent has accelerated in recent years, thanks to high-profile nature documentaries, and a series of social media and real-life stunts by campaigners.
These concerns are being heard by the private sector. Research conducted by Natwest found that around 57.5% of medium-sized businesses (those with turnovers between £5m and £250m) in the UK consider sustainability to be “extremely” or “very” influential in decision-making.
The statutory environment is likely to provide further encouragement. The plastic bag charge, introduced in 2015, managed to significantly reduce the UK’s use of disposable plastics. It will double to 10p next year. The sale of diesel and petrol cars is set to be banned from 2030 onwards. It’s likely that further measures will be announced and implemented in coming years, as growing numbers of voters approve of them.
These environmental concerns aren’t going to go away, and it’s likely that any incoming government would seek to strengthen them. Therefore, UK business will be given no choice but to meet the new standards. In fact, they might even pre-empt government action, as has been the case with widespread bans on plastic straws.
What Makes a Sustainable Business?
When we think about a sustainable business, we might think of the simple measures they might take to reduce their day-to-day environmental impact. This might mean going paperless for internal communication, or implementing a carpooling scheme, or even installing solar panels and ground-source heat pumps. One modern innovation that’s especially topical is working from home – every worker that doesn’t come into work is one less car on the road, meaning that telecommuting actually spells a reduced carbon footprint for the business.
Most of the environmental impact of a business comes through its supply chain. For a manufacturer, as much as 60% of the carbon footprint comes from where the raw materials are sourced from. For a retailer, this could rise to as high as 80%. The only way to get around this is to audit the supply chain, and to be transparent about where the weaknesses are, and how they’re to be addressed.
How are UK Investors Involved?
UK investors can help to push the needle in the right direction by putting their money behind projects they’ve determined to be promising. Often, an environmentally positive innovation can fail to get off the ground because of inadequate investment. Environmentally-concerned investors might correct this by seeking out the projects that will make a difference.
How to Invest in a Sustainable Project
If you’re looking to put your money behind a specialised energy and infrastructure portfolio, comprising enterprises that truly meet the criteria for sustainability, then you’ll want as much information as possible about how actually effective they are. Companies might be keen to advertise their environmental credentials, but the reality of their impact on the environment can often only be determined by impartial auditors. Look for businesses who’ve undergone an environmental audit and who look to undergo further such auditing in the future.