Putting the focus on net zero

Cara Haffey

AT a time when you've got so many competing priorities, what should you be focusing on? If environmental, social and governance (ESG) isn't already a part of your business plans, you can bet that during 2021 and beyond - it will be.

But first, let's look at why you should be investing time and potentially money to do this. What you're doing around ESG issues can help your business be more resilient, more sustainable and ultimately more successful.

Understand as well that what you do in this area will impact on your stakeholders, from your customers to investors to employees to partners.

The pandemic has shone a harsh light on the consequences of poor preparation. Companies need to take the learnings and evolve as they emerge from this period. Let's take one area to focus on - net zero.

To support this UK's ambitions to reduce carbon emissions to 78 per cent by 2035, and altogether by 2050, we're working with businesses to make fundamental changes to their operations, business models, their approach to climate risk assessment and planning, and their relationships with investors and consumers.)

We know that in the UK, family owned businesses need to think differently about how they approach sustainability and wider ESG issues.

Our latest global survey found that business owners here prefer to take a more traditional approach through philanthropic means rather than strategic planning. However what your stakeholders are increasingly looking for - your customers, lenders and employees - are meaningful targets and clear reporting.

And it's important to highlight as well that this isn't a case of making a profit versus protecting the Earth. The costs of not evolving are expected to rise, such as existing and upcoming regulations, taxes on energy use and changes to investor requirements. By moving forward with the transition, you can create value for your business:

? Expanding or developing low emission goods or services, meeting the growing customer preference

? Using resources more efficiently and reducing energy costs

? Having access to new markets, new sources of finance and public sector initiatives

And as you combine the rebuild of your business with a net zero plan, you can build up resilience to respond to the climate crisis at the same time - avoiding the need for another rebuild of your business in the future.

I get excited when I look at the opportunities for businesses here to grasp the mettle of net zero. Northern Ireland is making great progress on decarbonisation and, at the latest Renewed Ambition event held in Belfast, we heard that there simply aren't enough bankable projects for fund managers to invest in around the world.

Belfast was named as a key city along with others like Copenhagen which could become an example around the world on how to embed sustainability in businesses and reach net zero.

We're supporting our clients across all aspects of net zero transformation - from measuring and prioritising risks, developing a strategy, supporting organisational transformation and setting up reporting. Get in touch if you'd like to find out more.

:: Cara Haffey is deals partner at PwC

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