The Chamber of Commerce group, Sustainable Business Initiative (SBI), has just released the results of their Guernsey Business Sustainability Survey. It seems that our island is not immune to global climate chaos with 50% of Guernsey businesses already feeling the impact of climate change and as a sign of the times only two respondents did not believe in climate change.

Over a third of those who responded have no plan in place to reduce their environmental impact. Rollo de Sausmarez, Co-lead of the Sustainable Business Initiative, says: “This is alarming given the high level of risk local businesses face if they do not prepare to tackle the impact of climate change. When the World Economic Forum recently published their top risks to businesses, all five of them were climate change related and Guernsey is no different.”

The biggest barriers to businesses doing more to reduce their environmental impact were lack of awareness about what can be done (31%) and lack of resource (29%). This is in stark contrast to the UK where a similar survey found there was not enough financial payback (57%) and lack of government financial support (33%) as the biggest barriers.†

The survey found 44% of businesses who responded have already appointed a sustainability champion with the responsibility to drive change; a third of businesses have put sustainability as a regular agenda item at board meetings, and over half expect their organisations plan to spend more to improve environmental impact substantially or to a noticeable degree. These are all steps that the Sustainable Business Initiative is trying to encourage amongst Island businesses.

Though only 16% have made a positive environmental impact in the past three years or more, 45% have made an impact in the last six months, suggesting this is a much bigger priority than it used to be. “Interestingly, the biggest benefits noticed by those businesses who have made positive changes were increased employee satisfaction (49%) and improved company image (42%); with only 13% reporting no benefit to the good work. This really shows that being greener also makes your business stronger in other measures too,” says Rollo.

Carrie Ng, Head of Commercial Banking for HSBC and author of the SBI Guernsey Business Sustainability Survey, says: “It is encouraging to see that 43% of the respondents to the survey are from the finance industry. The island is embarking on a sustainability journey and there is a lot that financial services firms can do to shape and drive that forward. It’s important that as an industry we help as many local businesses as we can by providing the necessary funding or investment options in sustainability.”

Climate scientists and climate charities and have been urging all of us to move quicker on tackling the emergency and businesses are no exception. Joining the Chamber’s Sustainable Business Initiative will help to guide, inform and provide a supportive community. The SBI meet regularly and organise monthly Lunch ‘n’ Learn events.

Rollo explains: “We at Sustainable Business Initiative have identified three key steps to tackling the issue:
1. Decide to act – you can’t solve a problem you don’t admit you have
2. Appoint a champion – nothing will get done unless someone has responsibility
3. Apply an environmental, social and governance (ESG) framework – if it’s not measured, you can’t mitigate it.”

“Only 28% of businesses have undertaken an ESG Framework, this has got to be a priority.” ESG refers to the factors in measuring environmental and societal impact within a company and helps a business develop and realise a plan of action. SBI offers guidance on choosing the right ESG too.

The Business Sustainability Survey was created 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. SBI wanted to understand Guernsey businesses’ views on their environmental impact and how these change over time.

112 respondents 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.

The Sustainable Business Initiative run a monthly Lunch ‘n’ Learns to provide practical insight and training to help local businesses mitigate their climate impact at the Chamber of Commerce contact or for more information.

† Reference for UK comparison data