UK businesses appear to be struggling to justify investment in low-carbon technology because of the impact of COVID-19, according to new research.
In a study conducted by Centrica Business Solutions, six in ten firms (60%) reported that it had become more difficult to make the case for spending on energy-efficient and low carbon technology in the wake of the pandemic.
In fact, half (49%) said they have found it difficult to make the case for investment even if it creates savings in the long term.
Despite this, two in five companies (43%) claim that operating a sustainable business model remains a top priority.
A similar number (42%) say they are focused on achieving a strong financial performance and profitability as they navigate pandemic recovery, with half (49%) using the implementation of energy management systems and strategies to control costs.
The research shows that businesses showing leadership in sustainability rise above this short-termism because they know that pursuing short-term profits will end up costing them and the planet more in the long term. 79% of leaders say they prioritise long-term gains over quick returns and low-risk strategies.
Leaders proactively use energy procurement and energy management strategies to make their businesses more competitive and are nearly twice as likely (86%) than followers (45%) to access green finance. Leaders (41%) are also more likely to adopt an aggressive, ‘high-risk, high-reward' strategy, potentially creating greater disparity between themselves and followers (23%).
More than half of all UK organisations (53%) are also utilising energy-efficient technology, products and services to create new revenue streams.
When considering where the investment has already been made and adopted across most of their organisation, firms cite the use of battery storage units (48%), solar panels (35%) and demand side response measures (14%).
Greg McKenna, managing director at Centrica Business Solutions, said: "Disappointingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, our Why wait to pursue net zero? research shows the impact the pandemic has had on business' ability to prioritise investment in green strategies, with many struggling to justify up front capex on low-carbon technology.
"But the evidence shows that a progressive approach to energy can bolster businesses' balance sheets and support recovery from the impact of COVID-19. Indeed, this polling shows the commercial opportunity a more advanced approach to energy strategy presents. Firms that have already invested in innovative energy technology have been able to cut costs as well as carbon emissions - and unlock new revenue streams.
"In the year of Britain hosting the COP26 climate talks, it's vital that organisations such as ours provide peace of mind to those businesses struggling to commit to a low carbon future that improving their energy security can also provide cost certainty. There are many established financing tools that can support the transition to a sustainable future without the need for significant upfront capital."