UK businesses lead the European pack on sustainability ambitions

Credit: Shutterstock.com/ Looker_Studio

More UK businesses feel they have a role to play in delivering on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) than any other European nation, according to research from HSBC.

HSBC’s Navigator report, which surveyed more than 9,100 companies around the world including 1,000 in the UK, found three quarters of British firms stated they have a role to play in delivering the SDGs, with 38% believing that their role is significant.

Those figures are far ahead of the European averages of 53% (role to play) and 17% (significant role to play), and the global averages of 63% and 25%.

Rob King, Head of Sustainable Finance at HSBC UK, said: “It’s encouraging to see that UK businesses are showing leadership to become more sustainable and make a long-term difference to their customers, employees and the local communities in which they operate.

“We are increasingly seeing businesses incorporate sustainability goals into their strategic objectives and business models as they strive to make change in the future.”

Firms are striving to become more sustainable to improve operational efficiency (26%), meet regulatory standards (26%) and to gain a reputational advantage (24%). The report also finds that competitors (32%), government (30%), regulators (30%) and employees or future employees (28%) were the most significant sources of pressure.

The research found that domestic firms have more sustainable investment plans in place than their international counterparts and view their role to deliver on the SDGs as more significant.

To deliver on their sustainability goals in the future, 31% of businesses identified investment in technology, innovation and infrastructure as their top priorities followed by plans to reduce waste generation (29%) and encourage workplace diversity and equality (27%).

The biggest future challenge to sustainable practices was revealed as extra finance involved to implement (31%) and, while UK businesses are leading the charge to become more sustainable, more than a quarter (28%) are frustrated by inconsistent measurement and reporting frameworks.

Rob King added: “Sustainable practices will have a positive impact on a business’ reputation and performance. However businesses are telling us that they need support and clear guidance on which reporting frameworks to prioritise in order to deliver on their ambitions and bridge the gap between sentiment and reality.

“To support businesses to achieve their sustainability ambitions we have opened up our green lending proposition which is available to large corporates, mid-market enterprises and SMEs. Green loans are available at a minimum of £300,000 to enable firms to access finance to support their sustainability projects.”