Gary Moore, sales director at UNTHA UK, explores whether the UK is on track to achieve its bold targets, highlighting what the government, businesses and individuals can do to accelerate the progress made so far.
In recent years, the UK has made significant efforts to transition onwards to a greener and more sustainable economy.
However, as the deadline to achieve ambitious climate goals such as net zero, draws ever nearer, it’s important to examine progress made and consider what else can be done in the pursuit of a sustainable yet economically viable future.
Examining the green economy – opportunities and limitations
The concept of “green growth” refers to economic growth that is achieved while minimising environmental impacts and promoting sustainability.
By the latter half of 2021, the UK government had made significant efforts to promote green growth and reduce greenhouse emissions, having introduced several initiatives to support renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable transportation.
From signing legally binding pledges to deliver on climate promises by 2050, to investing millions in alternative energy sources, the UK has made in-roads when it comes to tackling climate change. Official statistics show there are already approximately 400,000 jobs in low-carbon businesses and their supply chains, across the country.
However, over the last few years, it’s clear that green growth progress has dwindled — a situation that is part of a much wider economic problem. Consequently, despite the best sustainability efforts of numerous businesses and individuals, there is still a long way to go if the UK is to achieve a truly green economy, and more must be done to reap the economic benefits presented so far.
So, in these challenging economic times, what can the UK do to accelerate green growth progress?
Back businesses to go green
Industry lies at the centre of the UK’s economy, and businesses are significant contributors to carbon emissions. Although the government has urged organisations to take action to reduce their environmental impact, there needs to be some incentivisation to prevent sustainable progress from losing momentum.
If we are to make real green advancements, the government needs to back businesses of all sizes to become more environmentally savvy and invest in sustainable innovation. This could include reviewing incentives for investment in decarbonisation initiatives, ensuring that businesses have access to funding for green initiatives or projects, and/or providing support to smaller businesses that need help in taking the first steps towards more sustainable operations.
It’s equally important that those in power hold businesses accountable for their sustainability promises. It’s no longer enough for organisations to make vague commitments towards reducing their environmental impact – real action has to be taken, with demonstrable and tangible results. “Greenwashing” is a large – and very important – problem now, after all.
In practice, this could look like imposing harsher penalties for companies that fail to comply with sustainable legislation or initiatives. It could also include making these initiatives compulsory for all businesses, regardless of size.
For example, SECR reporting is currently only mandatory for companies classified as large by the Companies Act 2006 – so the requirement for all businesses, regardless of size, to report on scope emissions could become a useful standard practice.
Nobody wants UK industries to become burdened by “red tape”, that’s for sure, but sometimes regulatory intervention is what’s required to achieve the progress we are all so desperate to see.
Prioritise public awareness and behavioural changes
Progressing sustainable development is a collaborative effort. The majority of the population recognises that climate change is a problem, yet unsustainable choices are still made every day.
This indicates a need for an increase in public awareness, education and resulting behavioural changes, which can be achieved through effective campaigns that aim to encourage environmentally responsible behaviour and consumption patterns.
Alternatively, there may be a need to incentivise companies to secure environmental accreditation or certification. This empowers citizens to make greener choices, which is an important driving force behind the achievement of a green economy.
Looking to the future
It’s no secret that we are living in difficult times. An unstable economy was problematic even before the post-pandemic cost of living, inflation and global supply chain issues. Years later, challenges still prevail and the UK now has to overcome this stagnation — all the while navigating a period of significant economic change and shifting environmental pressures.
However, if we are to successfully lay the foundations for a more sustainable future, a collective effort must be made to grow and maintain a sustainable economy — and this can be achieved by investing in, and supporting, green businesses and innovative technologies.