By Gina Hanrahan, Head of Policy at WWF Scotland, a member organisation of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland.
Climate change poses many chronic and severe risks to our planet’s natural and financial systems. But the actions we need to tackle climate change, like building warmer homes, developing new modes of transport and modernising how we grow our food, will also present huge innovation and economic opportunities for forward-thinking businesses in Scotland.
The profound transition that will have to happen across society and the economy needs buy in from business, understanding of the problems and an appetite to build a globally-facing resilient zero carbon economy. But when it comes to discussing Scotland’s Climate Bill, the voices of business – naturally preoccupied with the strategic risk of Brexit and wider economic concerns – have not been properly explored.
Only 2 in 5 smaller businesses feel prepared for the risks of climate change
That’s why in 2018 WWF Scotland commissioned a survey of 300 Scottish businesses to find out how prepared or otherwise they are for dealing with the impacts of climate change.
The findings showed a stark difference between how larger and smaller companies are readying themselves for the inevitable challenges our changing climate will bring.
When asked how prepared their organisations were to deal with the risks of climate change, only 2 in 5 smaller businesses said they feel prepared. That’s in stark contrast to larger businesses, with over three-quarters stating they are either fully or partly prepared. Further, only 15% of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) reported feeling their business sector has clear direction from the Scottish Government on how it can best contribute to tackling climate change.
The poll further found that less than a quarter of SMEs are aware of risks that climate change could pose to their business, and that larger businesses are nearly four times more likely to be aware that climate change poses a risk to their business.
This shows that many of the smaller companies that form the backbone of Scotland’s economy are ill prepared for the very real effects of climate change and will need support to ensure they are resilient for the future.
Many businesses have urged Scotland to lead on climate change
However, there is clearly real appetite from the business community for clarity and leadership about the low carbon transition. Our survey also found that 85% of large businesses and SMEs in Scotland say they want the Scottish Government to be a global leader in tackling climate change.
What businesses need most from government is clear policy frameworks and long-term certainty of direction. But many forward thinking businesses are already looking at how they can adapt business models, manage risk and seize the opportunities of tackling climate change.
Just a few weeks ago, global organisations including Coca-Cola, Tesco, Alexander Dennis and Sky joined forces to show leadership and called on the Scottish Parliament to ‘seize the chance to renew their position as a climate leader in the Climate Change Bill’ by targeting net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.
With all this momentum and climate change clearly on boardroom agendas (and not just with conventionally green businesses), we hope the Scottish Government agrees a net zero target before 2050 is the right thing to do and enables Scotland to be a net zero hero. It’s time to accelerate our response to climate change while at the same time planning a just transition towards a healthier, cleaner, flourishing country.