Time for businesses big and small to act on climate change

November 09, 2021 - 12:00am

Time for businesses big and small to act on climate change

The global climate summit in Glasgow COP26 in November has intensified the spotlight on businesses and their role in delivering climate action. For example, the UK Treasury announced at the COP new rules that will require all companies listed on the London Stock Exchange to openly publish their net zero plans from 2023.

However, meeting net zero emissions targets, and keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees C to avoid the worst effects of climate change will require transformation of a much broader range of organisations. SMEs make up over 99% all businesses, and account for almost half of the UK economy. Without a transformation in the activity of smaller businesses too, net zero is an impossibility. Where regulation has hit larger firms now, it is likely to reach other parts of our economy and society soon, making this an excellent time to get ahead and moving towards transparent planning for net zero. It is not only a matter of compliance; green innovation presents an enormous business opportunity with experts stating the UK low carbon economy is now worth more than £200bn, almost four times the size of the country’s manufacturing sector, with that growth expected to accelerate in the coming years.1

At Lancaster University, we are supporting innovation towards net zero through initiatives such as the Centre for Global Eco-innovation. The Centre brings together world leading expertise in sustainability – from engineering to environmental sciences, and from the business school to the arts – to work in close partnership with organisations in our local region and globally to develop eco-innovative products, practices and services. We have a range of opportunities currently open through our Eco-I NorthWest programme for SMEs in our region to work with us on low-carbon solutions. For example, we are working with a diverse range of companies in energy, manufacturing, health, food and fashion sectors to co-developed low-carbon R&D projects spanning 1 to 3 years.

As an organisation too, Lancaster University is working to put climate action at the forefront of our operations. The University declared a climate emergency in 2020, and have committed to reach net zero by 2035. Already the top University in generating renewable energy, we are now scoping the feasibility of a large-scale solar farm. Action must go beyond energy, however, and we are actively exploring how to address other key areas in our activities such as travel and procurement. Getting to net zero is a big challenge, but one that is easier to address together. We welcome those in our local business communities to join us on our net zero journey – if you have ideas for collaborations that could be implemented on campus or just want to join in the net zero conversation please contact us at business@cgeinnovation.org

“The challenge of reaching carbon net zero is one that Lancaster University is tackling on multiple fronts. As Jess mentions, it spans many aspects of our research including the direct impact of climate change in the Lancaster Environment Centre through to our to evolving the business response in the Pentland Centre for Sustainable Business. Our students too are both advocates and agents in that change. We are also seeking to change the way we work, travel and invest - though there remains much to do.” – Professor Andy Scofield, Vice Chancellor of Lancaster University

Professor Jess Davies, Director of Centre for Global Eco-Innovation