Which UK sectors are ahead in the race to net zero?

 The UK is committed to reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To achieve this, all sectors of the economy need to review their operations and find ways to be greener and smarter. But who is making the fastest progress on cutting carbon, and which sectors are slower to embrace the net zero challenge?

The recent BSI Net Zero Barometer report provides a clear picture of this. It also reveals that companies want to reduce their carbon emissions, but 8 in 10 say they need more guidance and support.

Which sectors are making the most progress in carbon reduction?

IT is the sector with the highest proportion of organizations that have committed to net zero. According to the BSI Net Zero Barometer Report, 61% of companies in this field have set themselves goals. In comparison, a smaller proportion of companies have made commitments in sectors such as manufacturing (45%), financial services (42%), healthcare (26%) and education (22%).

The reasons why some sectors make faster progress than others are complex. For some sectors such as manufacturing, energy efficiency has a clear implication for profitability, meaning companies have been quick to adopt improvements. In other areas such as health, performance may be patchier than the overall figures suggest, as health trusts differ significantly in their progress on carbon reduction to date.

Energy reduction and waste reduction are the two most common measures adopted within a net zero strategy. However, over two thirds (68%) of survey respondents said that the COVID-19 pandemic had affected their ability to adopt carbon reduction measures, as disruption meant there were more pressing short-term problems to address in 2020. Four in 10 (41%) also said Brexit was having a disruptive effect on net zero plans.

What are the biggest barriers to embracing net zero?

The Net Zero Barometer Report found that cost was cited as the biggest issue in adopting net zero measures. 44% of all respondents said this was an issue. For sectors such as healthcare, cost was a bigger issue (51% said it was a barrier) while just over half of small businesses (51%) said the same.

Understanding and knowledge were also important barriers to making change. Many organizations said they would like to set net zero targets, but lacked the information, skills and capacity to act.

Companies that have publicly committed to going net zero by 2050

With more resources at their command, larger companies have been able to lead the way in adopting net zero targets. Major companies that have announced net zero programmes include British Airways, Ikea, The National Trust, Microsoft, Sainsbury’s, EY, BP, Shell, Barclays, HMRC, NHS, HSBC and Sky.

Getting started on the road to net zero

To get started with a net zero initiative, it’s important to have a clear picture of where you are now, what your carbon footprint is and how it is generated by different elements of your business. Carrying out an assessment of your carbon usage will help to point the way to how net zero would fit with your organization.

Finding out what others are doing can help inform your activities. The UK Green Building Council has a database of net zero building projects. The British Retail Consortium has published a roadmap detailing efforts within the sector and the Carbon Trust has many examples of energy efficiency projects.

Standards can be an invaluable tool in helping you to adopt net zero measures. Two publicly available specifications are available for free download, which will help to get you started. These are PAS 2050, which helps users assess life cycle greenhouse gases of goods and services, and PAS 2070+A1 which helps users assess greenhouse gas emissions of a city.

We have known for decades that reducing greenhouse gas emissions needs to happen, but net zero will help to focus minds on a specific target date. 2050 is not that far away – it’s time to take action now. Find out more about what other organizations in your sector have been doing, or explore BSI guidance on this area.