article banner

The drivers behind adoption of environmental targets

Tom Rathborn Tom Rathborn

The UK is hosting COP26 in October 2021, and environmental concerns are only going to rise on the mid-market's agenda. We asked UK business leaders to tell us how they're tackling the environmental impact of their operations. Here are the key takeaways.

We were positively surprised to see that 59% of respondents had set science-based emissions reduction targets in the last 12 months. This shows that businesses are not just taking notice of climate change but are beginning to act.

Science-based emissions reduction targets differ significantly from many net-zero carbon targets in that they are aligned to prevent the global temperature rising more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. In addition, the practice of offsetting: compensating for continued emissions by your business by paying for avoidance or removals of emissions or other environmentally beneficial projects elsewhere, is not accepted. This means that organisations must reduce emissions. For many businesses this makes the process much more difficult, and shows a strong level of commitment across the market. 


Over half of respondents are asking suppliers to commit to science-based reduction targets. This reflects our experience in the market where there's been a clear rise in organisations mandating improved reporting or performance in commercial contracts, including financial penalties for missed targets.  

Organisations looking, or potentially needing, to validate their science-based targets can do so by seeking approval from the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). The validation process is not always straightforward and, from our experience, almost all applications require amendment before approval and publication on the SBTi website.

While it's not always easy, our research suggests that the majority of mid-market firms in the UK agree setting science-based emissions reduction targets is the right thing to do.


Environmental action at a glance


list item with text on the right

What our experts say...

“Business has a huge role to play in addressing our generation’s most pressing issue – climate change. This will undoubtedly affect business and we must lead the zero-carbon transition by setting emissions reduction targets grounded in climate science through the SBTi. Not only do we have to do this to protect our planet for us and future generations, but it also makes good business sense and there is no better time to start than now.”

Karen Higgins, Head of Sustainability at Grant Thornton UK LLP

Find out more about our approach to sustainability

Lessening the impact of operations on the environment and reducing waste and pollution should be a leading priority for any global company, and we're committed to reducing emissions by 21% by 2023.

We were the first accountancy firm in the world to set science-based targets to reduce our environmental impact, and our commitment is to reach real net-zero by 2050 without relying on offsetting.

Read more about our approach to sustainability

CEO insights: tailored content for CEOs and business owners

Receive the latest insights to stay on top of the issues that matter to you. Let us help you set the agenda for the year ahead.