Firms in the East of England still working to be greener despite Covid, says survey

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Around one in ten firms in the East of England said they had installed an on-site renewable energy source

The Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking’s Business Barometer found that becoming more environmentally sustainable was important to 53% of firms – just one point fewer than the proportion which said the same in 2019.

Of the small or medium enterprises (SMEs) surveyed, 54% said they had still actively worked to become greener in 2020 despite challenges and disruption caused by the pandemic.

A fifth said they had used suppliers that source environmentally friendly products and services or invested in energy efficient equipment or machinery in the last year.

Around one in ten firms said they had made changes to their premises to improve energy efficiency and a similar proportion had switched energy supplier or installed an on-site renewable energy source.

To pay for these changes, a quarter of firms were dipping into their cash reserves while 15% of firms are utilising government grants.

The survey found that the top three reasons businesses are choosing to become greener are long-term costs savings (19%), pressure from customers (15%), and firms’ corporate social responsibility policies (12%).

Dave Atkinson, East of England regional director for Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: "Most businesses had to re-evaluate their immediate priorities to deal with Covid-19, which is why it’s hugely encouraging to see so many firms with their sights still firmly set on improving environmental performance.

"Environmental sustainability will be a critical component of business’ coronavirus recovery strategies and investment in this area will support our region as its builds back better.

"We’re committed to ensuring that our customers have the help they need to transition to a greener future.

"We’re standing by the side of firms in the East with specially trained relationship teams and initiatives like our Clean Growth Finance Initiative, which offers discounted lending for environmental purposes."

In response to news in November that British companies would be forced to report on their environmental impact by 2025, April Sotomayor, responsible resource use lead for Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT), said: "We believe it’s vital for organisations to know their sustainability impacts, to be able to report on it, and make continual improvements – and this includes small and medium organisations that aren’t yet affected by the legislation. 

"With the UK needing to halve its emissions by 2030, businesses of all sizes have a part to play. It’s a great way for companies to become smarter, more resilient businesses of the future – we know that greener organisations have the potential to save money through resource efficiency, become more competitive, and win more sales too."

She continued: "Our national green accreditation scheme Investors in the Environment – which has 28 members in Peterborough alone – is a great way for organisations to get started on their sustainability journey, because we can support them every step of the way."

PECT founded the Investors in the Environment (iiE) accreditation scheme in 2010 with the aim to help and support organisations to reduce their environmental impacts and meet their green targets.