Looking ahead to 2021:

maintaining momentum around tackling climate change

COVID-19 has highlighted the complex impacts of extreme events, including environmental crises, and has increased our understanding of the damage that climate change can inflict over an extended period. There are also parallels between responding to different existential threats like a pandemic or climate change: they require a long-term, cross-government response supported by businesses and individuals.

The pandemic has subsequently reinforced the importance of broad action on tackling the climate emergency, with our recent research demonstrating that 69% of Britons are now willing to shift their behaviour to manage an existential threat. As we head into 2021, it is vital that the Government, businesses and the public build on this momentum to have a green recovery and make much needed progress in the long-term fight against irreversible climate change impact.

Government must maintain momentum and broaden its strategy to support the waste hierarchy

We at BRITA welcome the Prime Minister’s new Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, which has provided further details for how the UK will reach its goal of reducing emissions to net zero by 2050. This bold political platform suggests that the Government’s climate action plan is beginning to gather pace ahead of its COP26 Presidency next year. 

Earlier this year, the Government’s ban on single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds came into force in England. Supporting the shift away from all single-use plastic in favour of reusable or recyclable alternatives is a welcome step in the fight to reduce plastic consumption, however it is vital that the Government expands their sustainability strategy to challenge throwaway culture more broadly by championing the waste hierarchy and encouraging the reduction and reuse of unnecessary waste. We also welcome the renewed progression of the Environment Bill in Parliament, and are looking forward to following how this develops in 2021.

Adapting to Covid-19 provides an opportunity for businesses to embrace sustainability

As businesses continue to adapt to the challenging COVID-19 environment, supporting staff to work from home and slowly return to the office in a safe way, we must ensure that progress on issues of environmental responsibility and sustainability initiatives, such as switching to recyclable or reusable products, are entrenched into the new ways of doing business. Our research revealed that the pandemic has encouraged people to think more about their environmental footprint during lockdown, with almost half (48%) of all adults more conscious of making sustainable choices day-to-day, and embedding sustainability in business models is becoming increasingly expected by both consumers and employees. 

From eliminating single-use plastics to broader sustainability practices such as reducing carbon emissions and environmental waste and meeting Net Zero goals, there remain numerous opportunities for businesses to ensure that they embrace sustainability going forward and demonstrate their commitment to a green recovery. Earlier this year, we were encouraged to hear from UKHospitality and LEON Restaurants about how hospitality businesses of all sizes have seized the opportunity during the pandemic to embed sustainability practices into their new working practices, such as finding ways to reuse waste effectively, and planning more effectively using innovative technologies to minimise waste.

The public want to help protect the environment

Our research into the effects of the pandemic revealed that consumption of bottled water has almost halved, going from 58% buying on-the-go to 30%, with 35% more people also now planning to ensure they separate recyclable waste. BRITA has long been committed to offering consumers more sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic and we will continue to support this increased willingness to protect the environment and embrace sustainability at home.

These new habits developed at home during lockdown, alongside the increased use of reusable food containers over disposable crockery and cutlery, could signify an evolving cultural shift needed to help tackle climate change. Only time will tell whether these behaviours will continue into the future, however with nearly two thirds (61%) of people in employment pre-lockdown now expecting to continue working from home more frequently going forward, the public has an opportunity to continue to embrace sustainable practices and help protect the environment.

Embracing sustainability and protecting the environment requires collaboration

The pandemic has highlighted that when faced with unprecedented circumstances, we are more resilient when we work together as a society and celebrate one another’s successes. As the climate crisis continues and our resilience is put to the test, we at BRITA will continue to build on and develop meaningful partnerships with leading organisations like Keep Britain Tidy and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation to support effective societal action to embrace sustainable practices.

Sustainability is a challenge for everyone – governments, businesses and the public – and BRITA remains committed to playing our part in working together to tackle the climate emergency.

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