With COP26 in full swing, sustainability charity WRAP has released the results of a new survey canvassing the public on climate change, finding that six in ten consumers believe businesses should act immediately.

Top-line figures from the survey show that 66% of people agree the onus is on businesses to help consumers ‘go green’ and reduce their own environmental impact; 57% think that food businesses could be doing more to cut emissions; and 41% would like businesses to be more transparent about their targets in order for them to be held accountable.

WRAP says that across the board – from plastic and food waste to water stewardship and greenhouse gas emissions – public perception shows a ‘gap’ between the intentions and actions of businesses. According to 42%, this could be solved by businesses having ‘a clear step-by-step plan in place to reach their climate goals’ – moreover, 41% said companies should regularly publish their progress to demonstrate transparency and allow them to be held accountable to their promises.

Collaboration is also key, the data shows, with 40% in favour of UK businesses working in partnership to tackle climate change within their specific sectors or industries.

Unsurprisingly, says WRAP, COVID-19’s impact has been seen in purchasing habits, with exactly half of respondents agreeing that the pandemic has ‘made them more likely to buy from brands that take positive social and environmental action’.

People are making it clear that they expect businesses to lead the way on tackling climate change and are prepared to walk away from brands if they don’t change

Dr David Moon, director of collaboration and change at WRAP, comments: “People are making it clear that they expect businesses to lead the way on tackling climate change and are prepared to walk away from brands if they don’t change. It’s also apparent that there is a willingness and desire for business to collaborate and work together on the best ways of combating climate change and guiding the UK along the path to net zero. Bringing down emissions and adapting to the concerns of customers should now be at the forefront of business thinking. Time is running out for companies to act.”

WRAP’s call to action for businesses is to sign up to its collaborative change programme, Voluntary Agreements, which enables companies to reduce their individual impacts while ‘driving sector-wide change in key areas of production and consumption’. The programme supports businesses in ‘setting targets, focusing on priorities, sharing insights, preparing for new taxes and regulations, measuring progress, testing new solutions, and accelerating systemic action across the whole product chain to reduce Scope 3 emissions’.

Moon calls Voluntary Agreements (including the Plastics Pact) ‘the perfect opportunity for businesses to make practical changes to their operations towards science-based targets that can mitigate against the impacts they are having on the environment and demonstrate to customers their commitments to reducing emissions’.

“With COP26, there’s never been a more important time for UK businesses to confront these issues head-on over the next decade and join those who have. We have successfully run programmes that bring together global businesses, major retailers and smaller-scale organizations for more than 15 years, but our work isn’t done. Our aim is to work with more businesses and people to show them how they can make a real change through their operations and support them throughout each stage of the journey and to expand this work globally with partners around the world. We invite businesses to get in touch.”