Covid-19 recovery has derailed progress towards Net Zero by 2050


Three quarters of UK businesses support the government’s Net Zero by 2050 target. Yet, recovery from Covid-19 derailed plans and sustainability initiatives for 50%, and only one third (36%) have plans in place and are on track to make the deadline, new research has found.

The survey of over 250 senior decision makers with responsibility for green initiatives across public and private sector organisations by circular ICT solutions provider, Stone Group, found that many are making headway with sustainability initiatives despite pandemic disruption and economic uncertainty. For 32% of respondents, sustainability is a big focus and they have lots of green initiatives already in place, and 45% said they’re beginning to take sustainability more seriously with a growing number of green initiatives being introduced.

Just 19% of respondents said they were talking about sustainability and plan to do more when they can, and only 4% said they weren’t yet making any progress, despite a few initiatives being encouraged. Despite Covid-19 recovery pushing sustainability further down the list of business priorities, 42% of respondents claimed that the shift towards remote working has had a positive impact on their carbon footprint.

However, for the UK to meet its Net Zero by 2050 target, more urgent action is required from organisations to bring their plans and initiatives back on track. Given the UK government’s new ambitious climate change target to cut emissions by 77% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels, bringing the UK more than three quarters of the way to Net Zero by 2050, UK public and private sector organisations need to be contributing now to make these ambitions achievable.

The research found that the sustainability initiatives currently being prioritised by respondents are recycling (50%), smart building technologies (39%), and green order fulfilment initiatives (33%). Sustainable IT asset disposal came some way down the list, as a top-three priority for just 29%.

This, according to Stone Group director, Tim Westbrook, is a crucial area that is being overlooked: “Although UK organisations don’t currently appear to be prioritising responsible IT asset disposal, this is an area where they could be making a big difference. Of the £30 billion of equipment sold by the IT industry each year, just 17% of this is recycled in the UK. If we simply recycled our unwanted small electricals instead of hoarding them or sending them to landfill, the UK alone could save 2.8 million tonnes of CO² emissions – the equivalent of taking 1.3 million cars off the road.

“While organisations have had an incredibly challenging year and are understandably focused on mitigating the impact of the pandemic, it’s important that we don’t let progress with our sustainability targets slip. Initiatives don’t need to be onerous or require a lot of investment to make a big difference, either. We launched our IT asset disposal app, Stone 360, last October so organisations could arrange collection of their redundant IT equipment in a few easy clicks. We then collect it from them and securely wipe, recycle, or refurbish items, requiring minimal time and input from customers. Users of the app can track the rebates from their old IT assets, with the option to boost points to purchase new or refurbished IT from Stone. We’re also working with the National Forest to plant a tree for every 200 pieces of kit donated.”

Since it launched, the Stone 360 app has received over 3,000 downloads and has resulted in almost 200,000 items of redundant IT hardware being recycled at its ITAD facility, with over 500 trees planted on behalf of its customers.