How has Covid-19 affected the UK’s sustainable development?

Andrew Buckley - Energy Policy Advisor
| 14th July 2020 | Renewables Sustainability

As the UK looks to rebuild its economy following the effects of Covid-19, there is a question of whether the pandemic, with all its social, health and welfare implications, will propel businesses faster down the sustainability route. Or will the best of intentions get overlooked in a rush to return to economic growth at any cost?


Many agree that the pandemic recovery plan should put us on a path to a cleaner, greener future. Early signs are encouraging, at least for the UK and Europe. Our Prime Minister talks about creating a fairer, greener, and more resilient economy, whilst the EU is in the process of spelling out its green recovery programme.


However, there is much scope for progress for both. Before the pandemic, Britain ranked a moderate 12th in the international league table for meeting the UN’s target of achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 20301. These are integrated goals that balance social, economic, and environmental objectives, including ‘Climate Action’, ‘Sustainable Cities and Communities’, ‘Reduced Inequality’ and ‘No Poverty’2.


The Government has been encouraged to embrace the SDGs in its recovery programme. In this way, we can achieve a recovery that balances the economy with the environment. Many businesses, academia and charities have united to call on the PM for a ‘Green, Fair and Healthy Recovery’ and their recommendations include:

  • Use the SDGs in the recovery programme to unite all sectors behind a plan to build a stronger and more resilient economy3
  • Prioritise the most vulnerable in our society and level-up regional and societal inequalities3
  • Build coherent policies for a healthy planet and aid the transition to net zero3
  • Make climate risk disclosures mandatory for businesses4
  • Ensure financial support for business is conditional on their plans and action to align with the UK’s net zero target and the 1.5°C goal4
  • Strengthen the UK’s economic competitiveness and productivity through investment in the sectors and technologies of the future5
  • Deliver critical public goods, including clean air, better health, and improved financial resilience to future environmental shocks5
  • Enable UK businesses to be competitive providers of low carbon goods and services, ahead of G7 and COP26 summits5


It’s clear that industry groups and businesses are acknowledging how important it is for the recovery programme to benefit the economy, society, and the environment, equally.


The lockdown has shown what clean air can mean for city dwellers and returning to old habits built around ‘take, make and waste’ now appear to make little social, as well as environmental, sense.


So, what thoughts can we draw together at this early stage in terms of what these may mean for your business in the future? And how can your business become more sustainable during the recovery?


   1. Demonstrate your credentials

The ability to prove your company’s sustainability credentials is becoming more important, as businesses look for competitive advantage whilst satisfying consumer demand. A good place to start in becoming more sustainable is adopting the ‘circular economy’ approach – addressing your business’ processes and looking at how to optimise them. Based on the principles of re-use, repair and recycle, the EU already has a Circular Economy Action Plan6. Products to be sold on the EU market in the future will need to last longer and use recycled materials as much as possible.


So, if you have operations in the EU or simply sell into the area, then you will need to find out what the implications of the Circular Economy Action Plan could mean for your business. Good places to look include the EU’s websiteand the Ellen MacArthur Foundation website7. Adopting circular economy practices will form an essential part of achieving net zero, and you can calculate how well your business is transitioning towards more sustainable behaviours, here.


   2. Check your reporting requirements

As we’ve seen from examples earlier, further reporting requirements seem only a matter of time. These are likely to require more extensive reporting on your energy consumption and emissions, financial and environmental risks, and your net zero commitments and progress. Your organisation could be one of the 11,000 covered by BEIS’ Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) scheme8. If not, you may well be included in the future as consumption thresholds are expected to reduce. The scope of emissions covered could be extended and plans remain to create a publicly accessed portal at some point, where reputational performance comparisons could be made. To learn more about how reporting requirements could affect your business, there’s a useful guide to SECR on Carbon Trust’s website8.


Public pressure is also mounting for companies to declare how they intend to achieve net zero. Now is the time for your business to consider adopting science-based targets to achieve net zero, especially if you are looking to qualify for future financial support. A useful introduction to what’s involved can be found on the Science Based Targets website9.


   3. Create boardroom action

UN Global Compact maintains that whilst commitment to sustainability is high in businesses, more needs to be done if SDG goals are to be achieved by 2030.


A survey of Chief Sustainability Officers conducted between February and May 2020 found that, whilst 84% of companies are taking action to advance the SDGs, only 46% are currently embedding them into their core business10. Plus, whilst 39% say they believe their targets are sufficiently ambitious to achieve the 2030 deadline, only 15% have targets approved by the Science Based Targets initiative.


A good starting point for understanding how sustainability can truly be embedded in your organisation is to look at the report ‘Uniting Business in the Decade of Action‘ from UN Global Compact10.


 4. Make the most of a unique opportunity

The next 18 months are set to be high profile for sustainability and climate action, both in businesses and across the public at large. Not only will there be the pandemic recovery measures to digest in terms of what opportunities and incentives it may bring, but there’s also the UN’s World Energy Summit, COP26. Rescheduled for November 2021, the delay means that it can now take on an even greater significance, providing a platform for governments to showcase the green steps to recovery that they are taking, as well as their progress on the Paris Agreement.


In the meantime, there are many things your business can do during the recovery to ensure you become a more sustainable, resilient, and competitive business on the other side.


Here at Bryt Energy, we can support your business on its sustainability journey, providing you with zero carbon, 100% renewable electricity, sourced solely from wind, hydro and solar power. If you have any questions on how we can help you towards a low carbon, sustainable future, please speak to our friendly team at or on 0121 726 7575. Let’s make a difference, together.


1.  Institute for European Environmental Policy

2.  United Nations

3.  United Nations Global Compact

4.  The Climate Coalition

5.  The Aldersgate Group

6.  European Commission

7.  Ellen MacArthur Foundation

8.  The Carbon Trust

9.  Science Based Targets

10. United Nations Global Compact

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