With Brexit and Covid-19 dominating the headlines for Irish companies operating in the UK over the last 18 months, it’s easy to forget another huge issue that’s becoming ever more urgent by the day – climate change.
But with COP26 taking place in Glasgow later this year, an even closer light has been cast on the changing environmental and sustainability conditions of the UK market and the business implications of its net zero ambitions.
The UK was the first industrialised nation to enshrine its climate targets in law, pledging to cut carbon emissions from 1990 levels by 78pc by 2035 and to reach net zero by 2050.
This has been supplemented by recent UK government announcements including its ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution (published in December 2020), a new hydrogen strategy and an offshore wind sector deal.
The UK government is also planning to publish a comprehensive cross-sectoral net zero roadmap ahead of COP26 this autumn, which should provide greater clarity for all sectors.
The UK’s ambitious goals will drive fundamental changes across the business community.
Already, the UK net zero challenge is rapidly impacting government policy and legislation, influencing consumer preferences, impacting investor decision making and changing the way major corporates work with supply chain partners.
It is vital that Irish companies active in the UK are fully aware of these changing market dynamics and put in place solid plans to future proof their UK business activities.
To help, Enterprise Ireland has launched Net Zero UK: Ready for a Green Future, a proactive market intelligence and insights campaign that is designed to keep Irish business informed of the UK’s net zero plans and their impact on business.
Through an ongoing series of webinars, podcasts and reports, the campaign will highlight technologies and verticals that are likely to decline and those that will grow and emerge, along with the evolving expectations of major UK corporates as we race towards a greener future.
These insights can inform the strategic planning and R&D activities of Irish companies operating in the UK to both protect and to grow their business over the coming years.
It’s important to note that the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy will also bring about new business opportunities for Irish business. Working with Irish SMEs to identify new and relevant business opportunities is a key goal of Enterprise Ireland’s Net Zero UK campaign.
While current challenges may have pushed net zero down the list of priorities for Irish exporters, it is imperative that this changes – and quickly.
Irish companies are now being asked by their UK customers and potential customers to demonstrate their commitment to net zero and to showcase their own sustainability plans throughout the procurement process. Increasingly, we are seeing UK corporates looking for their supply chain to have achieved environmental accreditation through certification such as ISO 50001 and ISO 14001.
Timely action on climate change can also enable business resilience, help to attract top talent, increase operational efficiency, and demonstrate to your customers your real commitment to sustainability.
Enterprise Ireland’s Net Zero UK campaign is complemented by the €10m Climate Enterprise Action Fund, which provides a suite of products to help Irish companies assess their current carbon footprint and develop a concrete decarbonisation strategy to help future-proof their business.
These financial aids work alongside the focused sector insights provided by the Net Zero UK campaign.
The UK remains one of Ireland’s most important export partners, and it’s vital that Irish companies rise to the challenge of net zero and now take action to address the opportunities and risks brought about by the growth of the UK’s green economy.
Enterprise Ireland’s Net Zero UK campaign aims to support Irish exporters during this time of change, helping them to emerge stronger, more successful and more sustainable than ever.
Darragh Cotter is Senior Market Advisor – Industrial, Utilities and Cleantech at Enterprise Ireland. Net Zero UK is part of Enterprise Ireland’s Evolve UK campaign. Resources and insights are available on their website, www.globalambition.ie/markets-opportunities/uk