Are businesses still engaged in net zero?

Anthony Ainsworth, Chief Operating Officer at npower Business Solutions, discusses how sustainability professionals can keep net zero on track

Many organisations are facing increasingly challenging times, particularly when it comes to navigating the huge volatility we’ve seen in the wholesale energy markets over the last 12 months. 

This was reflected in our recent Business Energy Tracker report - a major piece of research where over 200 large organisations told us the real impact the UK energy crisis is having on their confidence to invest, particularly in the crucial measures that will help the UK meet its net zero target.

A huge 93% said they were very or a little concerned about the potential economic impact of funding net zero on their business.  As a result, despite an organisation’s best intentions, there is a worry that it could be a case of ‘survival first, net zero second’. 

Are businesses still backing net zero?

Firstly, the good news. Many businesses are seeing the benefits of adopting robust and long-term sustainability strategies.

Nearly three quarters of businesses (72%) said  that they feel clear on the role they can play in the transition, with the same number believing that their business will benefit. When asked about the main positives of embedding a more sustainable approach, greater resiliency through saving money and carbon is seen as the top benefit for a third (33%), while one in five (20%) believe there would be reputational benefits. One in eight (12%) also believe that a strong approach to net zero will help them attract the next generation of talent.

How can sustainability professionals keep net zero on track?

Despite the challenging environment, the Business Energy Tracker revealed that many organisations are taking a proactive approach to combat the current crisis by increasing their focus on low-carbon measures. More than half (55%) say that sustainability measures would be their most important investment priority over the next 12 months.

So, when it comes to reducing risk and increasing sustainability, there are several steps to take.

Get a handle on your data

Understanding exactly where and how you are using energy is crucial to reducing both costs and carbon. A sophisticated energy management system will help you monitor power and gas consumption throughout your organisation – and the related emissions. Depending on the nature of your business, sub-metering can also help to provide more granular detail about specific energy uses, such as machinery, lighting, or temperature control. 

Maximise energy efficiency

It goes without saying that the less energy you use, the less you will pay. Energy efficiency was highlighted in the Business Energy Tracker as the top tactic organisations were taking to reduce risk - more than half (58%) said they were increasing energy efficiency - which rose significantly to 84% among those that spend more than £2m on energy. Energy efficiency will also help you meet your net zero goals, so it’s a win-win all round.

Invest in on-site generation

You can also consider investing in sustainable on-site generation such as solar, wind or combined heat and power (CHP). This has multiple benefits, including lowering emissions and making your organisation less reliant on the grid. Again, this was a popular option in our report - more than a quarter (27%) of respondents said they are planning to invest in this measure to combat energy risk.  

Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) are also on the rise, with a third (32%) of businesses planning to use one to hit their sustainability targets.

Many options now have an attractive ROI, so it’s important to work with your energy partner to help you make a strategic plan.

The next decade is crucial

Net Zero remains high on the Government agenda. Chris Skidmore MP is conducting a Net Zero Review, with a report expected by the end of 2022, which will aim to ensure delivering the 2050 target is realistic and not placing undue burdens on businesses or consumers.

This means that the next 10 years is undoubtedly the ‘decade of delivery’ when it comes to net zero, which is why it is so important that momentum does not stall. Despite the Business Energy Tracker revealing business concerns, they are still backing net zero and recognise the multiple benefits it can bring.

You can download your copy of Business Energy Tracker here


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