The Chamber of Commerce group, Sustainable Business Initiative (SBI), has just released the results of their third annual Guernsey Business Sustainability Survey.
There are some clear trends over the years, with the overall results showing how far Guernsey businesses have come over such a short time. In 2022, 61% of local businesses who responded state that environmental sustainability is very important to them, up from 51% last year. Given an additional 24% who state it is somewhat important makes 85% seeing its importance, the highest ever.
The most impressive result was when asked “We care about environmental issues because:” resulting in 97% stating “it’s the right thing to do”, This has increased from 79% in 2020 and 85% in 2021. Similarly, pressure from clients is also getting companies to focus on environmental issues, with 63% stating their “customers want us to”, up from 48% in 2021 and 42% in 2020. Pressure from other areas is also up across the stakeholder spectrum, such as from employees (58%) and society expectations (63%).
Those surveyed also saw clear business benefits from focusing on environmental issues such as “it is important in managing risk” (53%) and “reducing cost” (34%) demonstrating the gains that can be achieved. These concerns are unsurprising given that a record 64% of respondents believe that climate change is already affecting their business.
Over three quarters (79%) of businesses have a plan in place for reducing their environmental impact (up from 76% the previous year). While 31% of businesses have an informal plan, more businesses are publishing their plans, with 24% doing so this year, up from 18% the year before.
Higher numbers of companies (44%) have undertaken an environmental framework to help guide their sustainability work. A significant increase of companies which have identified and appointed a sustainability champion (56% versus 32% in 2021) and more companies are putting environmental impact or sustainability as a regular board agenda item. These are all steps that the Sustainable Business Initiative is trying to encourage amongst Island businesses.
Rollo de Sausmarez, Co-lead of the Sustainable Business Initiative, says: “While it is excellent news that more companies are planning to reduce their environmental impact, informal plans to do so aren’t as effective as formal ones. And to get the most out of them, making those plans public to stakeholders as soon as possible without overpromising is the best approach. One way to do so is to adopt an environmental framework, appoint sustainability champions and ensure the board considers these efforts as a regular agenda item. This will help ensure there is no disconnect between good intentions and actually driving change”
When asked what the biggest barriers to businesses doing more to reduce their environmental impact, the top response was “there were no barriers”, replacing the top answer in 2019 “lack of awareness about what can be done” (down from 31% to 23%). The next three responses were financial, including impact on cash flow or profit margins, (29%), lack of resources (29%) and not enough financial payback on actions or investments (27%).
Jennifer Strachan, Co-lead of the Sustainable Business Initiative, says: “There is still a significant number of respondents who state that there was a lack of awareness about what can be done. We would encourage companies seeking to find out more to engage with SBI and other organisations which provide a wide range of educational seminars and material to help them on their sustainability journey. Clients looking to Guernsey for sustainable finance and tourism will expect the jurisdiction to ‘walk the walk’, so we would encourage local companies to consider being more active to be a part of that effort.”
The Business Sustainability Survey was started in 2019 to explore how important sustainability is to local businesses, why they may (or may not) care about environmental issues and what they’re doing about it. This will help SBI tailor their program to meet local business needs.
66 respondents from a wide range of business sectors and sizes took part in the survey, which will be run annually by the Chamber group, to monitor change over time. The SBI are benchmarking against the UK and will in future years benchmark against previous local results.
Joining the Chamber’s Sustainable Business Initiative will help to guide, inform and provide a supportive community. The Sustainable Business Initiative run frequent events to provide practical insight and training to help local businesses mitigate their climate impact at the Chamber of Commerce contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.