By Kirsty McManus, National Director, Institute of Directors (IoD) Northern Ireland
With the COP26 summit commencing in Glasgow at the end of this month, the spotlight is currently on how exactly the UK and other nations are responding to the climate crisis.
The publication last week of the Climate Transparency Report for 2021 suggests there is still some way to go.
Although CO2 emissions from G20 countries fell by 6 per cent in 2020 (largely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic), the levels are expected to rise by 4 per cent this year.
These disappointing figures call in to question whether current national responses are enough to achieve zero carbon targets.
The business community is already doing its part with companies regardless of size or sector understanding their obligation to incorporate sustainable practices into their overall strategy.
Taking a more environmentally friendly approach to business has numerous benefits, including the opportunity to gain competitive advantage, manage business risk more effectively, improve efficiency and reduce costs.
There are also benefits to be gained on a broader scale, as businesses have a significant role to play in leading the way through the promotion of innovative green technologies and designs which are having a hugely positive economic and social impact.
In Northern Ireland we are lucky to have numerous pioneering SMEs that have really taken up the mantle of climate action, contributing to sustainability efforts in a major way and placing our region at the heart of global change.
Take for example, Newtownabbey-based Environmental Street Furniture (ESF) and its pioneering Stellar Solar Smart Bench which utilises solar energy to provide USB mobile charging, WiFi, LED lighting and data gathering capabilities.
Another local company making waves within the sustainable energy sector is Senergy Innovations which designs and manufactures smart energy products and systems.
And following years of research and development the company is now at the stage of installing its ‘Étaín’ solar thermal panels on the roofs of pilot customers and partners, representing a significant step towards the future of solar energy solutions in Northern Ireland.
Agriculture is of course a core industry within Northern Ireland, and advances in AgTech are going a long way in terms of ensuring a more sustainable future. These include inventions such as Terry Canning’s CattleEye, which allows farmers to remotely monitor the wellbeing of their livestock and make substantial efficiency gains.
Leaders of all three firms will be among the speaker at our upcoming IoD Green Recovery Forum event in November when we’ll will hear more about how local SMEs are responding to the climate change emergency and how Northern Ireland can continue to play its part in promoting sustainability.
The groundwork has been laid for sustainable company practices, and businesses are continuing to embrace and exploit the opportunities offered by new, clean technologies for the good of their organisations, our society and the planet.