Most companies now have environmental sustainability policies

05 January 2022 3 min. read
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The majority of businesses are currently adopting environmental sustainability practices, according to a new study. However, fewer than one-in-ten firms are actually focusing on reducing their carbon emissions.

With public pressure to address climate change mounting, businesses are finally taking action to try and mitigate their impact on the environment. However, the vast majority of firms are looking into compensatory measures, rather than looking to reduce their actual output of carbon emissions.

A new study from Eden McCallum has surveyed over 150 executives across Europe on their efforts to implement sustainable business practices. First of all, a majority of 78% of all respondents noted they had an environmental sustainability policy in place. While this number varied between publicly listed companies – whose visibility motivated a higher number to have such plans, to have time-bound targets, and to publish them – more private firms had implemented these measures than had not.

Publicly listed companies are significantly more likely to have an ES policy, for it to be specific and time bound and to have shared it publicly

Liann Eden, co-founder of Eden McCallum, argued that the survey findings confirmed how seriously business leaders are taking climate change. She added, “Almost 90% of our respondents are concerned about environmental sustainability… The task now is to translate that concern into effective action. This is a challenge for everyone in business, whether you are a publicly listed or a privately owned enterprise.”

While this represents some progress, though, the nature of such targets may still be too soft to make the kind of impact needed to prevent the worst impacts of climate change in the years to come. The most common forms of sustainability measures involved energy use, resource reuse, and water usage.

Large minorities meanwhile prioritised things like forest preservation and biodiversity to compensate for their environmental impact. However, all the measures seem aimed to preserve ‘business as usual’ and the emissions it causes, rather than finding ways to prevent those externalities in the first place.


In one category labelled ‘Other’, 12% of respondents said they aimed to reduce their use of plastic, and or carbon emissions, and or increase their ESG investment. This likely means that fewer than one-tenth of environmental sustainability policies analysed by the researchers aimed to address carbon emission reductions.

This is something which has previously carried accusations of ‘greenwashing’ with it. Critics of businesses who announce offsetting measures to push toward things like net zero goals suggest that it over-simplifies the issue, and takes too long to actually work. For example, according to Greenpeace, a newly-planted tree can take as many as 20 years to capture the amount of CO2 that a carbon-offset scheme promises.

Speaking on the methods governments and businesses are currently using for their sustainability strategies, communications expert Alia Al Ghussain argued on Greenpeace’s website that while offsetting measures can be “vital both for wildlife and the climate,” it should be deployed “as well as cutting emissions directly, not as a substitute.” She added, “Offsetting projects simply don’t deliver what we need – a reduction in the carbon emissions entering the atmosphere. Instead, they’re a distraction from the real solutions to climate change.”