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Press Releases Sustainable Business

Business is eager to reduce its carbon footprint but needs support from government, says IoD

07 Dec 2021

In an Institute of Directors’ poll of almost 600 business leaders, it is clear that firms stand ready to work towards net zero but are looking to government for financial support and guidance in order to overcome the obstacles they face in reducing their carbon footprint.

Whilst only one in five directors (21%) considered COP26 successful in limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, almost six in ten (57%) stated that the decisions taken will encourage and support their business to reduce its carbon footprint.

The biggest obstacles faced by businesses trying to reduce their carbon footprint are a lack of practical feasibility (42%), such as existing tenancy agreements or technology systems, and upfront or ongoing costs (37%).

In terms of the measures that will most assist SMEs in addressing climate change, two thirds (66%) of directors stated financial support or incentives (66%), with nearly half (49%) calling for more advice and guidance from government, and 44% for education and training programmes.

Alex Hall-Chen, Senior Policy Advisor at the IoD, said:

“Regardless of the outcomes of COP26, businesses are ready to play their part in reducing carbon emissions. However, at a time of economic uncertainty and rising costs and taxes across sectors, businesses – particularly small and medium sized companies – can't make net zero a reality on their own.

“We know that the majority of firms are motivated to reduce their carbon footprint, but only a small minority actually have clear plans in place. There is a clear role for government to play in providing guidance, training and financial incentives for firms making the transition to net zero.”

The IoD is committed to playing a leading role in sustainable business, both in terms of its own activities and as an advocate in the business community and with policymakers. The IoD Sustainable Business Hub brings together sustainability related events, news, educational content and other initiatives occurring across the IoD community into a single, easily searchable location. The IoD’s own sustainability policy can also be found here.

Full survey results

580 respondents, conducted between 12th-29th November 2021.

From your perspective, how successful has COP26 been in limiting global warming to the target of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels? 

Very successful


Quite successful


Neither successful nor unsuccessful


Quite unsuccessful


Very unsuccessful


Don't know


To what extent will the decisions taken at COP26 ultimately encourage and support your business to reduce its carbon footprint? 

To a significant extent


To some extent


Not at all


Don't know


What would you say are the biggest obstacles faced by your organisation in reducing its carbon footprint? Please select all that apply.

Upfront or ongoing costs


Lack of practical feasibility e.g. due to existing tenancy agreements or technology systems


Lack of access to external finance or grants to support net zero actions


Unwillingness to prioritise decarbonisation


Lack of a clear business case


Lack of knowledge around how to make progress




Other (please specify)


What measures do you feel would be most useful in assisting SMEs to address climate change? Please select all that apply. 

Education and training programmes


More guidance and advice from government


More guidance and advice from the IoD


Endorsement by government of sustainability certification schemes/kitemarks


Specific SME reporting requirements relating to carbon footprint


Embedding of sustainability requirements into government and large company procurement contracts


Financial support or incentives from government




Other (please specify)


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