Microsoft: 59% of UK Organisations Will Miss Government 2050 Net Zero Target Without Urgent Action on Carbon Reduction, Research Reveals

Microsoft outlines net zero action plan to help UK leaders hit Government 2050 target

Just 41% of UK organisations are on track to meet the Government’s target for net zero carbon emissions by 2050, according to new research released today by Dr Chris Brauer, Goldsmiths, University of London in partnership with Microsoft.

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The findings reveal strong ambition and strategic vision on sustainability within UK organisations, but most leaders are struggling to translate that intent into action, with almost three quarters (74%) described as having “one foot in and one foot out” on sustainability.

Based on online surveys of 1,707 UK business leaders and 2,153 employees, the research report includes insights from leading British organisations, as well as prominent sustainable business experts from across government, industry and academia.

The ambition-action gap has not gone unnoticed by UK workers. According to the survey, the majority (72%) of employees surveyed felt that environmental sustainability should be a top priority for businesses over the next five years, yet only 19% report that their employer implements their current sustainability plan efficiently. Tellingly, only 17% of employees believe their work premises are as environmentally friendly as their own home. This is important, as almost half (48%) of employees surveyed said the strength of a firms’ sustainability plan would impact where they choose to work.

The challenges for business and a blueprint for net zero

The report points to the most pressing sustainability challenges identified by UK leaders in meeting net zero goals and outlines a practical blueprint of short- and long-term actions to overcome them. When asked to identify their top three most pressing challenges in the next five to 10 years, the top challenges highlighted by organisations surveyed include:

  • Actioning the strategy – Concerns about having a clear organisational sustainability strategy (43%)
  • Guidance – 41% of respondents cited clear government guidance as a challenge, but the report points to the need for whole systems thinking, including collaboration between government, commerce, academia and NGOs to collectively address barriers to net zero
  • Skills – Having in-house expertise and skills to support a sustainability strategy (40%)
  • Financing – Having access to funding to implement their sustainability plan (36%)
  • Getting the most out of technology –The availability of technology to support sustainability initiatives (33%)

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The Sustainability Leaders

The research team developed a scorecard against which to benchmark UK organisations’ progress on environmental sustainability. Based on the results, organisations were categorised into one of three groups:

  • Sustainability Leaders – just 11% of UK organisations – distinctive in their ability to unlock funding and develop technology to meet sustainability goals, with highly supportive leadership and strong stakeholder buy in. This group is on track to meet net zero targets.
  • Aspirational – 74% of organisations – better at raising their ambitions and designing strategies for sustainability than executing them. They have the operational potential to reach net zero, but faster transformation is needed.
  • Stragglers – only 15% of organisations – have embedded sustainability within their strategy but are currently making very slow progress on goals. This group are unlikely to reach net zero by 2050, unless ambition becomes genuine action.

One factor setting the Sustainability Leaders apart is their ability to harness the potential of technology to amplify and accelerate their net zero strategies. Three quarters of this group are investing in R&D for new technologies (76%), including tech to measure carbon emissions (76%), and many are also building the in-house skills needed to make the most of these technologies.

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