Natlie Sykes: The price of failing to tackle climate change is high

Natalie Sykes, regional director, Institute of Directors
Natalie Sykes, regional director, Institute of Directors

The recent climate change protest by Extinction Rebellion in cities across the UK, including Leeds, once again demonstrated the strength of feeling about our environment.

Traffic, one of the deemed contributors to climate change certainly was brought to a halt whilst eco-warriors from all ages took to the streets.

The Green Party has seen the largest rise in membership that I have seen in my lifetime and that is not just in this country. There is a gear change, and it’s global.

Last week we broke the record for the hottest temperature in the UK. Followed by something akin to a monsoon in subsequent days.

From a business perspective, climate change has become an issue that cannot be ignored. We must play our part by considering the environmental impact of our working practices and making necessary adjustments to reduce negative impacts.

The price of not doing this is high. Customers won’t want to do business with you and the next generation of young professionals will not want to work for you.

Businesses are already looking at flexible working arrangements that better suit employees’ busy lives and reduce the environmental impact of commuting. Manufacturers are reviewing their use of plastics, water and other energy sources.

Done right, this can have a positive impact on sales, as consumer seek out products and services that align with their own values and principles.

A recent report from the IoD and CMI revealed that business leaders are ready to lead the fight against climate change. With the Government committing to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the survey of almost 2,000 business leaders and managers revealed that the vast majority are already committed to the essential role that businesses play in tackling climate change.

Four out of five directors and managers said that their business is already taking action to tackle climate change.

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We are now calling on the Government to produce and promote practical guidance for all companies, regardless of size or industry, on how they can contribute to the 2050 target.

The next steps will be for boards to respond to the challenge by setting a clear direction which is embedded throughout their organisations.

Actions might include the appointment of a senior champion for climate change and a commitment to only selecting suppliers who are committed to tackling climate change.

This latter pledge will be a challenge for some firms, which might have to accept a short-term hit on costs.

What is becoming clear is that a commitment to tackling climate change is quickly moving up the list of good governance essentials.

James Cain of Harrogate Spring Water and winner of our CSR Director of the Year 2019 will be joining the panel at our IoD North Yorkshire Business Breakfast ‘Brand Harrogate Masterclass’ on September 12 at West Park Hotel, Harrogate. Courtesy of CNG, we are delighted to extend two complimentary tickets for YP readers – simply quote ‘YPClimateChange’ to join us.