Large UK businesses are now able to access a new array of tools aimed at helping them to tackle air pollution, after numerous surveys revealed that the British public are keen to see improvements in air quality maintained after lockdown.
The suite of resources is being provided by Business for Clean Air (B4CA), a campaign coordinated by environmental charity Global Action Plan and backed by businesses including Canary Wharf Group, Uber and Philips, alongside the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
It contains free guidance on setting standards and targets on clean air, producing roadmaps for meeting these aims and collaborating with other businesses and government officials for the shift to a cleaner air society.
Specific areas covered include promoting active commutes; investing in low-pollution or zero-emission delivery models; normalising flexible working; helping local communities to reduce air pollution and improving air quality inside the workplace. On the latter, one study last year concluded that air pollution in the UK is, on average, 3.5 times higher indoors in urban areas than outdoors.
B4CA’s move to launch these supports comes at a time when air pollution levels across the UK are believed to be significantly lower year-on-year, largely as a result of decreased travel due to lockdown restrictions. Official figures for April showed a month-on-month decrease in nitrogen dioxide concentrations of up to 60% in major UK cities.
But there are concerns that levels of air pollution could rebound as the Government continues to lift lockdown measures, unless the upcoming recovery package contains ambitious measures to promote low-emission transport. Pre-pandemic, most urban areas in the UK registered illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution, and the nation’s overall levels exceeded World Health Organisation limits.
The UK’s recovery plan is due out before the end of June and is expected to contain specific supports for electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing and charging, but green groups and businesses have put forward numerous calls for additional provision around walking, cycling, public transport and nature restoration – particularly given that air pollution is believed to be linked to higher Covid-19 death rates.
In the meantime, there is an opportunity for businesses to take leadership on the issue, Global Action Plan’s co-chief executive Chris Large argued.
“Business leadership on air pollution is imperative; it’s a health crisis that is crying out for business innovation, but it’s also an opportunity for businesses to radically improve the quality of life for their customers and employees,” Large said. “The steps that will cut pollution will also reduce road accidents, improve work-life balance, promote healthy lifestyles and enhance community connections.”
The B4CA membership currently comprises Uber, Philips, Canary Wharf Group, Engie, Blueair, Octopus Electric Vehicles, Ricardo, BP Chargemaster, Zehnder, LeasePlan and Defra. Each of these organisations is urging others to follow suit.