Net Zero Barometer Report finds UK business leaders want to achieve net zero but don’t know how

25 January 2021

Business leaders’ understanding of the implications on net zero on their organizations is poor according to the first Net Zero Barometer Report published by BSI, which surveys 1,000 senior decision makers and sustainability professionals in the UK. 64 per cent of those we surveyed were not confident they fully understood what impact it could have for their firm, while the vast majority (82 per cent) stated that they require more guidance if they are to achieve the target.    

In spite of this, there is a genuine desire amongst the business community to come together to hit the government’s 2050 net zero target1, with 7 out of 10 stating that their business has made or is considering making a solid commitment to achieving the goal.

However, this commitment dwindles for the UK’s small business community, with just one in five having committed to a net zero target, in contrast to 50 per cent of their larger cousins. With smaller businesses accounting for 99.9 per cent of all UK firms and half of business-related emissions, this lack of commitment could severely undermine the overall net zero progress in the UK.

The past 12 months have hampered businesses efforts, with nearly 7 out of 10 reporting that their plans to achieve the carbon neutrality target have been pushed back by the pandemic, as other corporate priorities have taken centre stage.

A difficult year is also reflected in what businesses see as the largest barrier to achieving net zero - cost. 44 per cent of those surveyed identified it as their greatest hurdle to overcome, followed by clarity on what the target really means.

Scott Steedman, Director-General Standards at BSI said: “Despite the pressures posed by the pandemic, it is incredibly positive that there is growing, wide-spread commitment from business leaders to achieve net zero by 2050. As the UK National Standards Body, BSI is ideally positioned to partner with organizations to build a standards strategy for them and their sectors that will support their sustainability ambitions. We call for organizations of every size across every industry to join us in shaping the best practices that will accelerate the journey to net zero and create a healthier and more sustainable world for the coming generations.”

Survey respondents from IT and manufacturing firms were the most likely to report that their organization has committed to net zero, also showing the most awareness. Whereas, healthcare and education exhibit a comparative lack of awareness regarding target setting, with just 26 per cent and 22 per cent of respondents respectively aware of whether their organization had committed to net zero in some form. It should be noted that the COVID-19 pandemic will have impacted both sectors significantly which could explain this relative lack of target setting in 2020.

For all sectors, standards are an effective way of embedding best practice into British business, ensuring that organizations are equipped with the tools that they need to achieve their goals in the most efficient, safe and effective way possible. Numerous international standards provide guidance to enable organizations to measure, verify, manage and communicate their journey toward carbon neutrality.

Download the full report here:

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Notes to the editor:

1 In June 2019, the UK Parliament passed legislation that committed the country to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. Read more here:


To analyse how analyse how UK businesses are managing the transition to net zero, BSI commissioned an independent survey of 1,000 UK senior decision makers and sustainability professionals across a range of industries to achieve a representative data sample.