Coping with carbon: the rise of carbon anxiety

Coping with carbon: the rise of carbon anxiety
January 2024
Bronagh Loughlin

Bronagh Loughlin Author

Journalist and columnist
Collaborative content with

Managing carbon emissions is on the strategic plan for many organisations, but dealing with carbon footprint, net zero emissions and all that comes with that can cause many people to experience a sense of carbon overwhelm.

Think about the many terms under this umbrella and the vast number of activities and responsibilities linked to climate action; it can be information overload.

The phrase ‘eco-anxiety’ has become increasingly used, but just like sustainability, eco can be quite the umbrella term.

Climate or eco-anxiety refers to a chronic stress or fear associated with the climate crisis.

There’s no denying that much of this fear is well and truly justified. For some, fear may be a motivator for engaging in more sustainable activities. For others, it can leave them feeling powerless and immovable.

It is also important to acknowledge that education or lack of awareness or knowledge is a significant barrier to making change happen.

This lack of education can especially be applied to carbon, a constantly evolving area. We are seeing the rise of new approaches, like various types of carbon offsetting and storing.

Still, new terms like carbon neutral, carbon positive, carbon negative, net zero, carbon zero, and much more are also there to keep up with.

With all the buzz around carbon, businesses with the best intentions still don’t know how to approach this area, making the feeling of being overwhelmed more likely.

Despite the challenges, the 2022 SME Climate Hub report found that half of small businesses calculate emissions, and 60 per cent have created plans to reduce their carbon impact.

In saying that, two-thirds of small business owners did share that they were worried they lacked the proper knowledge and skills to tackle the environmental emergency of which carbon is a significant part.

The top reason they shared to delay climate action was a lack of knowledge and skills (63 per cent).

SME Climate HUB data revealed two-thirds of surveyed small businesses concerned over navigating climate action. Source: SME Climate HUB

Ultimately, the survey concluded that SMEs need additional support and guidance surrounding carbon, and we can assume some larger organisations also struggle with this, given the complexity of their operations.

There is a significant need for a comprehensive yet easy-to-digest carbon literacy like never before so businesses can take adequate steps to minimise their carbon footprint.

A British Chamber of Commerce report unveiled that a lack of business understanding has blocked action on net zero in the business sector.

This is both in terms of the actual targets and steps to achieve these targets.

Without a complete understanding, businesses will be unlikely to act, which is greatly needed given that lack of action undermines their ability to reach net zero emissions and future-proof their enterprise.

Illustration based on Research from the British Business Bank. Source: Profit with Purpose Magazine

NatWestGroup research also revealed that 87 per cent of UK SMEs are unaware of their organisation’s total carbon emissions. While they have good intentions, a lack of understanding is acting as a significant barrier.

This isn’t just affecting UK organisations; plenty of businesses and entrepreneurs worldwide are struggling with carbon overwhelm.

The lack of corporate and business understanding of net zero and carbon emissions also filters down to their customers.

Research from BRC reports that around 70 per cent of consumers openly admit they do not understand the contributions to their carbon footprint or comprehend the most impactful choices they can make.

The sense of anxiety and hopelessness business owners can feel about the carbon challenge is justified.

However, despite these challenges, it is crucial for businesses to take action and play a significant role in mitigating the crisis.

Many resources are available that work to demystify the carbon landscape and make it more accessible for businesses, such as the Carbon Jargon Buster published by the Irish government and The Carbon Literacy Project, which enables organisations to take on this challenge.


Headline Image by pressfoto on Freepik


This article is published in collaboration with the Profit with Purpose Magazine.

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Bronagh Loughlin

Bronagh Loughlin Author

Journalist and columnist