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‘Huge gap’ between businesses and public on sustainability

New research shows a huge disparity between public opinion on how UK businesses should behave on environmental and social issues, and how businesses are actually conducting themselves.

According to a YouGov survey commissioned by the Lloyds Banking Group Centre for Responsible Business, 74 per cent of British adults say that businesses should now have a net zero strategy. However, only half of the senior business decision makers questioned by YouGov said they had one.

Furthermore, almost three in ten people (28 per cent) said they will choose the most sustainable option to them if given clear and trustworthy product information, whereas only 13 per cent of businesses believed the same.

‘Brilliant opportunity’

Prof Ian Thomson, director of the centre, said: “These findings show that the public greatly overestimates its power to influence change in businesses behaviour. However, this could be a brilliant opportunity for businesses.

“Sustainability and responsible behaviour aren’t just challenges for businesses, but also a chance for them to build a brand based on trust and help futureproof their companies against further legislation (which the survey showed is a popular sustainability measure amongst the general public) and avoid hefty costs further down the road.”

The centre’s research also showed a sizable gap in the amount of action taken by smaller compared to larger businesses, with many small businesses seeing engagement on environmental issues as a “luxury only big business can afford”.

Notably, 60 per cent of the small businesses surveyed said they do not regularly collaborate with external support when solving problems, compared to just 19 per cent of large businesses. 

‘Business is stuck in the traditional view’

Prof Thomson concluded: “Across the board there is a huge gap between what the public expects from business and how business acts. What this survey proves is that business is stuck in the traditional view of what its purpose in the world is.

“The business community needs to completely revolutionise the way it sees itself and make radical changes in order to reach net zero and have a positive impact on the world. If business doesn’t make the most of the time we have left to make these changes, then before we know it, it will be too late.”

SMEs in Greater Manchester at the start of their net zero journey are encouraged to access fully funded support through the Growth Hub’s Journey to Net Zero programme.

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