By Kirsty McManus, National Director, Institute of Directors (IoD) Northern Ireland

The recent COP26 summit has placed the climate crisis in the spotlight, drawing attention to the severity of the situation along with the action that is needed to effectively combat it.

Business leaders, both globally and locally, have undoubtedly been made more aware of their role in addressing the climate crisis, with many already incorporating sustainable practices into their overall business strategies.

It was pleased to see a number of Northern Ireland-based companies showcasing at the conference from Artemis Technologies, which exhibited its zero-emission maritime vessels an Translink which outlined its plans to decarbonise our public transport network to achieve  net zero by 2040 to Environmental Street Furniture which showcased how harnessing renewable energies can allow for the production of innovative and functional designs.

The variety of local businesses involved served to highlight the tremendous efforts being made within Northern Ireland to promote sustainability across all industries and sectors.

However, implementing organisational change and promoting carbon neutrality is not something that businesses can do on their own.

Governments must support the transition to more sustainable business practices, through the development of clear sector roadmaps to net-zero and long-term policy support.

Kirsty McManus
Kirsty McManus

With Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy set to announce its new energy strategy before the end of this year, it is hoped greater focus will be placed on the further development of renewable energy and improving energy efficiency to better position this region to avail of the sustainable technologies of the future and drive the green recovery.

This strategy will also help to bring Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK and the Republic, affording businesses the same opportunities to attract investment from increasingly climate conscious investors.

As an organisation, we look forward to engaging with the Economy Minister Gordon Lyons about the future development of Northern Ireland’s energy sector and the wider economy at an exclusive breakfast event next month as we aim to contribute to necessary conversations regarding the potential implications and opportunities for business.

In partnership with the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, the IoD also recently launched an online professional development course with a focus on sustainability.

It aims to help support directors and boards in their transition to more environmentally friendly methods, so that we can tackle the climate crisis together and create a positive legacy for generations to come.

As we emerge from the pandemic, our businesses are demonstrating their commitment to the race to net zero, helping rebuild our economy in a sustainable way – but we must work together to meet the challenge.