Belfast Chamber and BDO NI launched the Belfast Business Sustainability Survey

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A survey of Belfast businesses has revealed that 91.2% regard climate change and sustainability as an important issue, with more than 4 in 5 saying that climate change presents a moderate or serious challenge.

The Belfast Business Sustainability Survey was carried out by the Belfast Chamber and leading business advisers BDO NI.

Amongst its key findings was a high level of awareness of the challenges created by climate change but a much lower level of preparedness on many key areas.  Resounding support for a single point of contact in the city for businesses to obtain advice and support on becoming more sustainable was also a key finding from the data.

Commenting on the survey findings, Belfast Chamber Chief Executive Simon Hamilton said, “Our Belfast Chamber/BDO Sustainability Survey illustrates quite starkly how serious businesses across Belfast are taking climate change.  The findings of our survey show that there is a very high level of awareness about sustainability issues however, this is not always matched by equally high levels of preparedness.  That mismatch in risk and readiness is also reflected in a widespread view that the city generally and both local and regional government in particular aren’t adapting quickly enough to the challenges presented by climate change.

Belfast Chamber believes that businesses in our city – the overwhelming majority of which are micro or small in size – need much more support to make the changes that they know their businesses will need to adapt to the challenge presented by climate change. That’s why we are calling for the creation of a single point of contact in the city for businesses to get the kind of advice and guidance they will need to reduce the waste they produce and the energy they consume, make the switch to electric vehicle fleets and also prepare for the risks of extreme heat or flooding. 

Businesses in Belfast have seen their ability to focus on this important issue impacted negatively by other factors like COVID-19. As we emerge from the pandemic and edge towards recovery, getting to grips with climate change must become a greater priority and it is clear that businesses are crying out for the help and advice they evidently require.”

Analysing the results of the survey, BDO Northern Ireland Partner Laura Jackson said, “An important figure in this survey is the 60% of local companies who admitted that they were not adapting quickly enough to the challenges presented by climate change. Whilst we anticipated a large percentage to acknowledge the importance of the issue (91% in fact) this figure demonstrates that more than half are struggling to deliver practically to the changing environment.

“This is where organisations such as BDO NI bridge that gap, we assist organisations of all sizes in identifying key considerations in relation to climate change/ESG factors, relevant to the nature of their business and advise on real practical solutions.

“Incorporating your ESG agenda into your business strategy can provide real value to your business. Whether this is through optimising more sustainable products, reducing operational costs through lower energy consumption, attracting talent through a strong social reputation, creating a priority for a unifying organisational culture, or investing in sustainable equipment for example.

“Barriers such as Brexit, Covid-19, the availability of resources and the lack of the required expertise and support have all been deciding factors in how a company progresses and their pursuit and delivery of a workable sustainability agenda is no different”.

Giving his thoughts on the Belfast Business Sustainability Survey, Professor John Barry, the Professor of Green Political Economy at Queen’s University and Co-Chair of the Belfast Climate Commission, said,The results of this survey on business attitudes towards current and projected action on climate change and sustainability show that businesses are overwhelmingly positive, and supportive of more ambitious and urgent climate action.  The vast majority of businesses see climate change as important and challenging and support a strong NI Climate Change Act with sector specific carbon reduction targets.   I congratulate the Belfast Chamber for leading on this issue and this should be first of many engagements with businesses on the city’s path to net zero by 2050 and the creation of a climate resilient Belfast.  As Co-Chair of the Belfast Climate Commission, I am heartened by the survey results, demonstrating that businesses are aware of the crisis and are willing to roll up their sleeves to get to work on reducing our use of fossil fuels which is the main cause of climate breakdown.  The survey results also show that businesses need help and support in contributing towards the collective effort to get Belfast, and Northern Ireland, to net zero carbon and our transition to a climate secure economy and society”.