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23 Sep 2022

Net zero must be embedded within business plans and jobs for green growth to take off, Sustainability Summit hears

Moving from a position where the net zero agenda is an aspiration to it being embedded in every strand of a business will be crucial to taking meaningful strides forward in green growth.

This was the consensus among speakers at East Midlands Chamber’s Sustainability Summit yesterday (Thursday 22 September), which also heard how the cost-of-doing-business crisis offers an opportunity to make environmentally-friendly efficiencies that reduce overheads for organisations.

The event, held at headline partner the University of Derby’s Enterprise Centre, featured keynote speakers from universities, businesses, banking, not-for-profits and Government.

Chris Hobson, director of policy and external affairs at East Midlands Chamber, said: “Despite firms facing lots of external challenges and a crisis in the cost of doing business, they remain highly committed to the net zero agenda by making efficiencies in their operations and buildings to reduce not only their carbon emissions, but costs too.

“So as we search for solutions to the mountain of problems, it’s vital we don’t take our eye off the ball in supporting businesses to adopt green growth strategies.

“It’s clear we still have much work to do in this respect, with many companies telling us there must be a more joined-up approach between organisations – whether it’s Government agencies, universities, local authorities and business representation networks like the Chamber – and a more consistent message across these bodies.”

Businesses need information, finance and skills about net zero

Unique research into Green Growth Trends in the East Midlands 2022 carried out by the Chamber and University of Derby found the proportion of the region’s firms that sell green goods and services has almost trebled to 45% over the seven years to 2022, while the proportion considering green growth as part of their business strategies has more than doubled to 21.5% in the past four years.

However, 35% of firms still aren’t engaged with green growth – with reasons cited including gaps in information, skills and access to finance.

Chris added: “While it’s very promising to see real progress being made in the race to net zero, access to finance for green projects and skills for green jobs remain key barriers to making further inroads into greening up our economy.

“From a policy perspective, Government needs to get on with stalled environmental legislation. This will remove the uncertainty and provide businesses with the opportunity to plan for the future.

businesses want to see our decision-makers pushing through previously proposed legislation in areas like waste management and biodiversity in order to start investing in new technologies that will drive change and there is a message to ‘get on with it’.

“The language we use when discussing the net zero needs to evolve as the landscape does – when we talk about green jobs, let’s start thinking less about the inputs of roles and more about their impact in order to broaden what is currently a very narrow definition.

“And for businesses, we want to move towards green growth being embedded in everything we do – from business plans for growth and making efficiencies, to the products we make and skills we look for. Only once it is part of mainstream thinking can we really begin to make the required progress in cutting emissions and costs.”

For more information about business support related to net zero adoption and green growth, visit the Chamber’s Sustainable East Midlands page.