The power of employees in the green transition

Responsible business is under the magnifying glass where there's increasing pressure to ensure sustainability is now firmly on the agenda. There are some ESG factors businesses must consider if they want to keep up with the competition.

State of the nation

In September 2023, Rishi Sunak spoke to the nation about his future for the UK’s approach to its net zero target and announced a number of major changes:

  • Delaying for 5 years the sale of new petrol and diesel cars – the requirement for all new cars will now come in to force in 2035 rather than 2030
  • 2035 will also be the new date for the ban on fossil fuel heating for off-gas-grid homes
  • Increase of 50% to the Boiler Upgrade Grant to £7,500 for households who need help to replace their gas boilers
  • There are no changes to the ban on the sale of new gas boilers in 2035 – there will be exemptions for poorer households
  • Removing the requirement for landlords to have all their rental properties at a grade C or higher Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) from 2025

For the UK to achieve its net zero target by 2050 it needs to reduce emissions by 68% compared with 1990 levels, in line with the Paris Agreement. So how do businesses balance the need to adapt and innovate alongside external pressures and legislative changes?

Sustainability is now firmly on the agenda for consumers and investors concerned about climate change and there’s increasing pressure on businesses to ensure transparency and honesty is built in to all ESG reporting, both internally and externally.

Responsible business is under the magnifying glass and is increasingly being seen as the biggest selling point of businesses, moving away from financial performance alone.

Empowered employees

Sustainable actions can drive consumer preference, with upward of 70% of consumers surveyed on purchases in multiple industries saying they would pay an additional 5% for a green product if it met the same performance standards as a non-green alternative.

A major study found that businesses with social engagement activities were perceived to be beneficial by public and social stakeholders. These businesses achieved demonstrably higher valuations than competitors with lower social capital.

Across all ages, 82% want to be able to link their values and principles with the organisation they work for, and children of business owners are starting to ask probing questions about where money is invested. Millennial and Gen Z children are keener than ever not to inherit what they think of as “dirty money”.

When it comes to workforce demands, 50% of workers want their employers to demonstrate climate and social commitments, with 33% for those aged 18-24 turning down a job if environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors were deemed lacking. This suggests that companies needing to be open about their environmental and social commitments could become a common trend over the coming years to attract employees and new business.

More businesses are committing to deliver on the 1.5-degree goal, but this cannot be led from the top alone. Empowering and upskilling employees will be the making of businesses who are taking on the climate challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Employees who are informed on a business’ climate goals feel integral to the delivery of these and are prepared to embrace change while being given the tools and knowledge to help lead the green transformation. This will be the cornerstone to the long-term survival of businesses.


Consumers, employees and legislators are now more than ever examining the sustainability claims businesses make. Net zero is the biggest growth opportunity of the 21st century and to achieve this all businesses must ensure their sustainability claims are verifiable.

All sectors will become more competitive and proving they have delivered on their promises will help them ensure financial sustainability. Adapting to the changing demands from legislators and wider society, businesses will have to adopt efficiencies in the design, production and delivery of goods and services to consumers.

While competition will lead to companies wanting to achieve net zero in line with the Paris Agreement, its collaboration and innovation that’ll ensure success.

For guidance on managing your business, read our latest owner managed business special edition of Private Affairs.

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Every piece of content we create is correct on the date it’s published but please don’t rely on it as legal advice. If you’d like to speak to us about your own legal requirements, please contact one of our expert lawyers.

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