A stormy outlook has put small businesses’ plans for net zero in a precarious bind
In the face of a stormy global economic and geopolitical outlook, leaders from across the world will gather next month at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt.
High inflation, soaring energy bills and Russia’s continuing military aggression against Ukraine have all, understandably, dominated the political agenda in recent weeks.
Amid this backdrop, the Cop27 conference risks being overlooked by some, but it will be critical to shaping how we respond to what is, arguably, the most pressing issue of our time.
This summer, the Square Mile sweltered in temperatures unlike any seen in its long history. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, devastating floods displaced over 33 million people.
We need to act now to tackle climate change. And everyone in society must play their part.
The City has a – well-earned – reputation as a buzzing financial centre, home to the headquarters of some of the biggest businesses in the world.
But small and medium-sized businesses are the lifeblood of the City and make up a staggering 98 per cent of all businesses within our boundaries.
For the Square Mile to reach net zero by 2040, we need small and medium businesses to be able to reach net zero alongside larger financial institutions.
I know that this can feel daunting for firms that don’t have big teams or budgets to help them navigate the path, especially when there is already an abundance of uncertainty over the future economic climate and the costs of running their business.
But there is help out there. The City Corporation funds a programme designed around empowering smaller companies to be able to factor climate action into their forward-planning. We’ve already had a host of businesses sign up to this, and we want to grow even further.
This is a tough time for small businesses, and committing to anything that doesn’t seem immediately essential can feel impossible. But net zero is not just “nice to do”: it’s a necessity.
Businesses are regularly being asked to demonstrate their environmental credentials when bidding for work or interviewing talented people for jobs. And customers increasingly look at a business’ record on the climate when they part with their hard-earned cash.
Rising energy bills are a huge concern for small businesses. Renewables are generally considered to be cheaper and more reliable than oil and gas, which presents yet another reason to get to net zero.
The yearly climate conferences will be a checkpoint to assess progress against the targets businesses large and small have set for themselves.
At the City Corporation, we’re working hard to deliver on our Climate Action Strategy – our plan to reduce emissions, build climate resilience and champion sustainable growth. We have made great progress so far, cutting our annual carbon emissions by 31 per cent since the financial year 2018/19. But there’s still a way to go to hit our target of achieving net zero in our own operations by 2027.
With its roots as an ancient Roman settlement, the City wasn’t built in a day. Neither will our efforts to become net zero materialise overnight, it requires constant work and commitment to the project.