Not long ago there was an appetite for net zero. The extinction rebellion movement was making headlines, public momentum was strong, and businesses were investing in green technologies. And, since COVID-19 we’ve seen the effects of less pollution and clearer skies, all around the world. But question is, for how long?
In a recent webinar, Gab Barbaro, Managing Director at British Gas business, shared his thoughts on the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on net zero, and what the future might look like on the other side it. Below are some of the key takeaways.
New ways of working
British Gas business (BGB) supports almost a third of all businesses across the UK. Or to put it another way, that includes around 6,000 schools, 4,000 hospital buildings, 7,000 care homes and under 5,000 hotels and restaurants – businesses operating in some of the most hard-hit sectors. To continue supporting its customers through the crisis it had to act fast. So, within just one week, the majority of the B2B workforce was working from home on laptops and answering questions on webchat.
Since then BGB has continued adapting, successfully implementing new, greener ways of working to support its customers as the world navigates this new normal. A virtual training programme is turning new starters into capable team members in just six weeks. And thanks to a remote digital guided survey – a new innovation accelerated by COVID-19 – site audits can take place without the need for an engineer visit. However, not all businesses are in a position to be as flexible or move forward with any net zero activity while COVID-19 continues. So, what happens now?
Net zero reset
If history (and the last recession) are anything to go by, then green investment is inextricably linked to the economy and so two things are likely. The first is that many businesses must first look inward to make sure they’re sustainable, viable and can provide jobs for all employees. Only then can they see what’s left over for green investment.
The second involves those businesses who might see things differently – those that have successfully adapted their business model during COVID-19 and are therefore more likely to be open to green alternatives and in a position to seek them out.
However, despite all the unknowns one thing is certain; the world has proven it can be adaptable. Many businesses have realised what it can do without, just as others have found innovative workarounds and new technologies that are delivering unexpected environmental gains. So, when the economy does start rebuilding and businesses are able to make discretionary investments once again, the future may look greener than we think.
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