Guernsey businesses increasingly put environmental concerns at the heart of their operations

6th May 2021

The Chamber of Commerce group, Sustainable Business Initiative (SBI), has just released the results of their annual Guernsey Business Sustainability Survey. The survey highlighted that local businesses continue to believe environmental sustainability is very or somewhat important to them (84%).

There is a clear new trend when comparing the data from last year, that stakeholders such as clients, staff and regulators are increasingly driving business concerns about the environment.

When asked “We care about environmental issues because:” over 85% stated “it’s the right thing to do”, and interestingly, there were strong responses on the pressure from stakeholders to do so, including “our employees want us to” (54%), “our customers want us to” (48%), and up over 100% since 2020 “Regulators require us to” (19%) and “Investors pressure us to” (13%).  It shows that staff and client feedback as well investor engagement are having more impact.

Over three quarters (76%) of businesses have some kind of plan in place for reducing their environmental impact (up from 61% the previous year). Not all of those have a formal plan however, with 39% of businesses having something informal. More businesses are publishing their plans though, with 18% doing so this year, up from 15% the year before.

Similarly, only 33% of companies had undertaken an environmental framework to help guide their sustainability work, and only 32% had identified and appointed a sustainability champion and put 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 nextthree 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: “We were delighted to see fewer respondents stated there was a lack of awareness about what can be done.  SBI and other organisations have provided a wide range of educational seminars and material, and government initiatives have also helped to raise awareness as to the issues.  We will continue to offer support for those on their sustainability journey.  Clients in 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.”

Jennifer also noted: “Interestingly, forthe second year running, the biggest benefits noticed by those businesses who have made positive changes were increased employee satisfaction (49%) and the new second place is positive response from customers(32%); with only 15% reporting no benefit to the good work. This really shows that being greener also makes your business stronger in other measures too.”

Rollo explains: “Climate scientists and climate charities and have been urging all of us to move quicker on tackling the emergency and businesses are no exception.  We at SBI 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 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. SBI wanted to understand Guernsey businesses’ views on their environmental impact and how these change over time.

160 respondents from a wide range of business sectors and sizestook 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 frequenteventsto provide practical insight and training to help local businesses mitigate their climate impact at the Chamber of Commerce contact sbi.guernsey@gmail.comor office@guernseychamber.comfor more information.