Irish businesses are losing confidence in reaching 2030 climate goals

22 Apr 2022

Image: © deagreez/Stock.adobe.com

Four out of five Irish companies do not think they can meet carbon-neutral targets by the end of this decade, according to an EY report.

Irish business leaders are losing confidence in their ability to meet 2030 climate goals, according to a new EY Ireland sustainability report.

Four out of five Irish businesses, or 80pc, said they have low confidence in terms of meeting carbon-neutral targets for 2030.

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With less than eight years to go until this deadline, there is now more apprehension around the issue than there was last year, when 64pc of respondents said they lacked confidence in meeting the targets. However, awareness of sustainability issues has seen a small rise compared to EY’s survey last year.

Stephen Prendiville, EY Ireland’s head of sustainability, believes the doubt has to do with the fact that Irish businesses are now looking more closely at their carbon ambitions and have gained “a deeper awareness” of the challenges that come with the transformation.

“Business leaders are also facing headwinds amidst the ongoing energy and inflation crisis and challenging geopolitical issues,” he said. “These factors, combined with less time to achieve the 2030 goals, mean that we are seeing lower confidence reported.”

Compliance emerged as the number-one reason for Irish businesses to ramp up sustainability measures. In EY’s survey, 28pc of respondents said they believed compliance was the biggest motivating factor, almost double the figure last year.

Meanwhile, 25pc said their businesses is stepping up sustainability efforts for the sake of the environment – up from 22pc last year.

Prendiville is not surprised that policies and compliance are taking precedence over environmental concern for some companies.

Because the regulatory landscape has been “evolving quickly” with a “lot of implications being discussed”, he thinks it is only natural for companies to be worried about compliance – with many possibly waiting for the introduction of regulations before deciding their sustainability plans.

“What is interesting is that no one surveyed sees ‘the ability to grow profit’ as a key factor in their sustainability efforts. It’s imperative that businesses don’t rely on regulation alone and seek to understand more clearly the long-term business value of sustainability and net-zero strategies,” he said.

One of the positives of this compliance-focused approach, according to the report, is that 62pc of respondents said there has been a significant increase in sustainability-related activity in their businesses in the last year, particularly in the adoption of science-based targets.

Last year, more than 60 companies in different industries across Ireland pledged to set science-based carbon emission reduction targets in the coming years and report on their progress.

According to EY, Irish businesses are becoming less concerned that they are not doing enough from a sustainability perspective. Just 16pc of respondents said they are concerned that their company is not doing enough, down from 25pc last year.

“The biggest concern in the results is the predominant sense among Irish businesses that they are doing enough when it comes to sustainability,” said Prendiville. “Simply put, we need to do more.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com