The vast majority of businesses in the Highlands and Islands are responding to the global climate emergency and exploring ways of reducing their impacts on the environment.
A thousand businesses took part in the latest survey conducted between 30 September and 30 October.
It shows that 93% of companies across the region are already aiming to reduce their environmental impact by taking steps such as minimising waste and improving the energy efficiency of premises.
Almost three quarters (72%) of larger firms (25 or more employees) are investing in more energy efficient equipment. Food and drink businesses were more likely than average to have already improved the energy efficiency of their systems and processes.
Mitigating carbon emissions from transport presents a challenge to the 97% of businesses who are reliant on this for their day to day operations. Using more locally sourced supplies (62%), investing in more energy efficient transport (47%) and collaborating to achieve efficiencies (46%) are some of the key actions businesses anticipate taking.
At a time of uncertainty for businesses, the survey also found that four in five businesses reported good (41%) or steady (38%) performance in the past 12 months. Levels of optimism about their prospects remain high with 72% optimistic for the next year, although this is 8% lower than last year.
Most businesses (89%) see the UK’s departure from the EU as a risk to their business; 36% describe it as a significant risk. Despite this, only half (52%) said they felt prepared for Brexit, 39% were not.
Businesses felt most prepared for changes to cash flow, routes to market and supply chain arrangements. Food and drink businesses felt less prepared than others for customs delays and changes to import and export procedures. For tourism businesses, the availability of skilled staff was more of a concern.
Most businesses felt confident in their ability to respond to changes in their working environment. This confidence was rooted in having to adapt to change in the past and having the skills and a sufficiently adaptable workforce to do so.
Martin Johnson, interim director of strategy and regional economy at HIE, said:”It is encouraging to see so many businesses responding to the climate emergency and demonstrating their ability to adapt in a time of change. It is important that all businesses and organisations continue to do so as we move towards an economy based on net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
“While business performance and optimism remain strong, there are clearly uncertainties and concerns over what lies ahead. There is still a lack of clarity about how Brexit will affect businesses in the region, and we encourage them to take what steps they can to prepare. Help and information is available on the Prepare For Brexit website and also on the HIE website.
“Once again, businesses across the region have provided us with really valuable feedback and detailed insights into the challenges and opportunities they are facing. This helps to inform public sector policies and strategies on how support should be tailored to best meet the region’s needs. Any businesses interested in taking part in future surveys are welcome to sign up to the panel and can find details on the HIE website.”