News Release

British Business Counting Pennies, Not Carbon

Carbon measurement is top of the agenda for 2010 and demonstrable cost savings are an essential motivator, but budget sources for necessary investment are unclear, according to new research
Feb 03, 2010

LONDON - February 3, 2010 – British businesses are giving mixed messages about their level of commitment to carbon reduction targets, according to The Smart Carbon Research, released today by Cisco and Greenbang.  The researchers used both quantitative and qualitative techniques to investigate attitudes among British energy providers and corporate consumers to impending environmental challenges. 

Setting the tone for 2010, 58 percent of respondents believe carbon monitoring and measurement will have the most significant impact on reducing emissions for UK businesses – ranking it above alternative renewable energy sources (52 percent), reduced energy use through efficient IT (46 percent), and reducing work travel and commuting (34 percent).  This finding seems to reflect the current UK legislation focus on measuring office-based primary energy usage, excluding the carbon impact of business travel.

Research Highlights:


  • When asked about motivations, cost savings were cited as the most important factor in encouraging UK companies to improve energy monitoring and management (60 percent) and reduce carbon emissions (47 percent).
  • Legislation follows with 24 percent and 25 percent respectively.  


  • Awareness of the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme legislation is relatively high, with 62 percent of respondents considering it to be 'essential' in reducing the carbon use of UK businesses. 
  • Interestingly, legislation is a more popular carbon reduction tool among energy providers than their corporate customers (just 19 percent of business professionals think that legislation is likely to be the most important driver of carbon emission reduction, compared to 33 percent of energy providers).
  • 44 percent of respondents believe the current legislation does not go far enough, and 40 percent believe that the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme is 'very confusing' and that it will prove 'difficult to implement and enforce'.

Solutions and investment

  • Almost all (96 percent) of those surveyed believe that technology can help the UK meet its carbon reduction targets, with a majority (67 percent) regarding its potential impact as significant. 
  • However, only a third (36 percent) believe that their organisation should 'definitely' invest some of its technology budget in innovative carbon-reducing technologies, highlighting a discrepancy between the belief in these technologies and a willingness to divert budget towards them.
  • Most companies (72 percent) surveyed have invested in more efficient enterprise IT devices, but usage of more complex technologies is less common.  Less than half of those who believe smart meters are one of the most promising technologies to help the UK (62 percent) have actually used them (29 percent).
  • The single most promising technology cited is renewable energy sources (76 percent) with 41 percent having used them.

The future

  • When asked to make predictions about the UK's energy and carbon outlook in 20 years time, only 32 percent of respondents gave an optimistic response.  
  • A larger group (41 percent) expect 'business as usual with an ageing infrastructure', and another 14 percent go even further and expect to see a 'failing infrastructure with energy poverty'.
  • Energy professionals are more positive than their customers, with 40 percent foreseeing improvement against 28 percent among business professionals.


  • Phil Smith, Vice President and CEO, Cisco UKI
  • "Every organisation's journey towards carbon reduction will be different, however the UK's legislation at the moment addresses just one element of a company's carbon impact. Our research has demonstrated a good understanding for how technology can reduce the UK's total carbon output, but those organisations that make exemplary organisational changes, replacing business travel with intelligent collaborative technology for example, can actually find themselves on the wrong side of today's legislation.  This year, government will need to look more holistically at organisations' longer term environmental impact in order to get a clearer picture of our collective progress against the UK's 2020 targets."

  • Dan Ilett, founder, Greenbang
  • "This research highlights a gap between those who are keen do something about carbon and those who are able. For example, there is a clear difference between those organisations that have money and are willing to spend on low-carbon technologies, as opposed to those that would like to do something but have no budget."

    "There are positive initiatives from government and business, which open an array of business opportunities - many of them are currently around carbon measurement and services as opposed to technology. However, there is still a lack of strong leadership and education around carbon once the message filters down to mid-management and the general public."


In light of the issues identified by the research, Cisco and Greenbang have provided the following recommendations for consideration:

Carbon Clarity

  • There should be a continued focus on measuring energy output, for commercial and environmental reasons. The next step for many businesses is adoption of technologies such as smart meters to monitor their current emissions. While this process has benefits in itself, it should also be a stepping stone to further action, and measurement needs to extend beyond the areas covered by current legislation to include third-party carbon impact, such as business flights.

CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme Push

  • The will for the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme to succeed is there, but it needs to be sold in to businesses as a measure with commercial and reputational advantages above and beyond the obvious environmental gains. The legislation will also need to evolve in order to provide value to the UK in addressing an extraordinarily complex issue and contributing to 2020 targets.

Converting Measurement into Action

  • Organisations will inevitably be at different stages along the route towards environmental technologies. However, the report highlights that a majority currently see measurement as the immediate focus. It is important that there is the motivation within these organisations to make the transition from measurement to real, tangible action.

Commitment to Innovation Investment

  • In order to take the required next steps, more organisations need to be willing to make a budgetary commitment to innovative, process changing green IT. Accepting this reality, businesses will need to consider how this will be accommodated in their budgets in the present financial climate.

Continued Education

  • Within any organisation, employees are engaged to varying degrees in the process of converting to green technologies. Those who are more engaged should ensure that the momentum to educate is maintained, and that the educative cycle is continued. Progress can only be accelerated through increased understanding of the requirements of legislation and, perhaps more importantly, the benefits of fortifying carbon reduction strategies.

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Notes to Editors:

The research was undertaken in December 2009 with 250 interviews conducted among readers of the Greenbang website. The sample was representative of the Greenbang readership and composed of a mixture of respondents largely working in business (and technology), or as energy professionals. 12 additional in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with energy professionals in UK businesses (6 energy consultancies/third parties, 4 utility businesses, 2 corporate high energy users). The survey was conducted by Loudhouse Research, an independent research agency, on behalf of Cisco.