Best Practise and Barriers on the Road to
Net Zero: Evidence from Companies in
Norfolk and Suffolk
September 2022
A report for the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership
University of East Anglia Team
Professor Naresh R. Pandit
Dr Vanya Kitsopoulou
Dr Usha Sundaram
University of Suffolk Team
Professor Darryl Newport
Ms Justine Oakes
Ms Beth Sowersby
Executive Summary
This report is funded by the UK Community Renewal Fund (CRF) and is one of the products of a
wider “Road to Net Zero” CRF Partnership led by New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership for
Norfolk and Suffolk (NALEP). It identifies decarbonisation best practise and barriers to
decarbonisation on the road to Net Zero for companies in Norfolk and Suffolk. Online
questionnaire, one-to-one interview, and focus group data are triangulated to produce a
comprehensive evidence base for a set of 23 findings and a set of 24 recommendations. These
findings and recommendations are aggregated and connected in Table 1. Recommendations are
rated on a 1-5 scale with 1 = easiest to implement and 5 = most difficult to implement.
Table 1: Aggregated Findings and Related Recommendations
Aggregated Findings Related Recommendations
Information and Knowledge
A Net Zero Information and Knowledge
Deficit is identified which poses a significant
barrier to action. Features of this deficit are:
- Quality of Information and knowledge: Lack
of clear, timely, and relevant information; lack
of practical, actionable knowledge.
- Access to information and knowledge: Lack
of support; and, lack of time and resource in
accessing expertise.
SMEs are more affected by the deficit than
larger companies who are better networked
and better resourced for accessing in-house
and external expertise.
Improving Information and Knowledge
Improving the information deficit.
- Information needs to be scaled from
general to specific where specific refers to
company size, stage on the road to Net Zero,
and, sector. Rating: 1
- Information to take the form of business-
friendly how-to guidance that translates
technical jargon into usable, adaptable
information. Rating: 2
- Existing information from reputable
sources to be linked to a central repository
for easy access by companies. Rating: 2
Improving the knowledge deficit.
- Companies that demonstrate best practise
should be promoted as exemplars and
encouraged to share that best practise.
Rating: 2
Company Operations
Actions towards Net Zero among SMEs are
limited because they are perceived as
Companies prioritise easy piecemeal actions
with quick gains over more difficult plans that
deliver larger long term impact.
Companies that have signed up to the Net
Zero challenge and pledges report financial
and social benefits from their decision.
Companies that have embedded
Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)
reporting and compliance into their reporting
Improving Company Operations
Extending ESG reporting to SMEs. Rating: 5
Companies to be encouraged to declare a
climate emergency to kick-start emissions
planning. Rating: 4
SMEs to be encouraged and supported to
engage in longer term strategic thinking.
Rating: 3
More guidance and support for Net Zero
investment appraisals. Rating: 2
Additional information targeting SMEs to
be developed outlining the availability of and
access to renewable energy to help SMEs
standards find it easier to measure, track, and
monitor their carbon emissions.
Rising energy prices are driving more
companies towards reducing Scope 1 and 2
emissions and seeking cheaper renewable
Waste, water, transport, work from home
(WFH) and collaboration with downstream and
upstream supply chains are the most popular
Scope3 emission reduction activities.
A motivational dichotomy is observed in the
business community with one large group
prioritising profit and another large group
prioritising corporate social responsibility
Companies are concerned by wider related
problems of water scarcity, biosecurity,
pollution, and food security.
make informed decisions about Scope 1 and
2 emissions. Rating: 3
Companies that represent best planning
practise to be promoted as exemplars and
encouraged to share that practise. In
particular, large companies to be targeted as
potential leaders. Rating: 2
Continued WFH home to be facilitated
when business-appropriate. Rating: 1
Advice and support to focus on both profit
and CSR. Rating: 1
Create dialogue forums that bring together
Net Zero concerns and related problems of
water scarcity, biosecurity, pollution, and
food security. Rating: 1
Technological Solutions
Most long term technological solutions are at
an immature stage meaning that they are
either inaccessible or not scalable.
Technological opportunities are highly
Lack of appropriate infrastructure is an
important technological barrier to Net Zero
Lack of certainty on technology grants and
subsidies is an important barrier to Net Zero
Improving Technological Solutions
More government spending on Net Zero
infrastructure. Rating: 5
More, better, and more frequent
information on technology grants and
subsidies. Rating: 1
More local knowledge dissemination
events on innovative energy alternatives.
Rating: 2
Better representation of regional Net Zero
infrastructure requirements at national
policy-making levels. Rating: 2
Stakeholder Support
Companies perceive significant issues
relating to the range and extent of support
received from key stakeholders in the region.
Companies report inconsistent stakeholder
support across the NALEP region and across
Companies report greatest difficulty with
addressing Scope 3 emissions.
Improving Stakeholder Support
Improved support from regional
- All Local Councils to consider declaring
climate emergencies as a nudge to motivate
local companies to sign up for Net Zero
support and advice. Rating: 2
- Closer ties between NALEP/Chambers and
local Trade Associations which are best
placed to address critical Scope 3 emissions.
Rating: 3
- More geographical and sectoral spread of
Net Zero events to be more inclusive of all
sub-regions and all significant sectors.
Rating: 1
Official Net Zero communications are
perceived as underdeveloped, jargon-heavy,
and opaque.
Companies perceive official Net Zero
communications with suspicion and
Another dichotomy is observed in the
business community with one large group
perceiving official communications as
trivialising the problem and another large
group perceiving official communications as
Net Zero communications are perceived to
lack practical applicability.
Improving Net Zero Communications
Create a multi-pronged communications
strategy that uses a variety of techniques.
Rating: 3
Develop clear, jargon-free guidelines to
scaffold Net Zero commitments. Rating: 2
Develop self-help guides for SMEs that lack
resources and time to carry out independent
research. Rating: 2
Establish peer-to-peer influence by
promoting exemplars of best practise.
Rating: 2
Use incentives to nudge companies to
balance commercial and environmental
- Emphasise legal and regulatory obligations.
Rating: 1
- Create support resources that help SMEs
set target dates. Rating: 1
- Create support resources for monitoring,
measuring, and tracking carbon emissions.
Rating: 2
- Work with local experts to develop dual
reporting mechanisms that incorporate
financial and environmental compliance.
Rating: 2
- Train and support Net Zero advisers as
single sources of truth in providing
mentoring, guidance, and advice for SMEs.
Rating: 4
- Ensure that the overarching
communications strategy moves from
general to specific, from easy to difficult,
from low to high impact, and from internal to
external focus. Rating: 2
This report identifies a Net Zero information and knowledge deficit which poses a significant barrier
to decarbonisation action. An easy to access Net Zero regional repository of resources and
signposted support would assist in reducing this barrier. Such awareness-raising, particularly
among SMEs, should be a priority for policy-makers and this can be supported by improved
marketing communications and incentives for Net Zero education, training, and skills development.
Regulatory requirements for SMEs, which have been effective among larger companies, also need
serious central government policy commitment.
Strategic planning for Net Zero, particularly among SMEs, requires urgent support and
development. A strategic planning process is required across the SME population. This involves
making a commitment to Net Zero, perhaps by declaring a climate emergency, setting measurable
Net Zero targets, and then forming a programme of related actions to achieve those targets. Very
importantly, this strategy should not be produced independently of overall strategy. Instead, in
order to be credible and effective, it should form part of overall strategy. Local and central
government, collective organisations such as trade associations and chambers of commerce,
education and skills providers such as universities and further education colleges, and exemplar
peers all have a role to play in helping SMEs to define and improve strategic planning on the road to
Net Zero.
This report also identifies a need for greater regional cohesion in terms of the management and
leadership of the Net Zero agenda. This is particularly important for companies that feel excluded
within their sector, or across the rural-urban divide and have yet to take their first serious step
towards making a commitment or taking action. Greater cohesion will also strengthen the region’s
lobbying power nationally when competing for scarce Net Zero funding. Knowledge exchange
workshops, active listening, placemaking, branding, and a cluster-based development are all means
to improve cohesion.
1. Introduction
This report is funded by the UK Community Renewal Fund (CRF) and is one of the products of a
wider Road to Net Zero CRF Partnership led by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership for
Norfolk and Suffolk (NALEP). The CRF is a UK Government programme that aims to support people
and communities across the UK to pilot programmes and new approaches to prepare for the £2.6
billion UK Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) which succeeds European Union (EU) structural funds. SPF
money is intended for local places across the UK to invest in three priority areas: communities and
place, support for local companies, and people and skills.
The NALEP CRF Partnership has engaged key regional actors for climate policy and business support
in a collaborative pilot initiative designed to provide business support and grants on a Net Zero
future, building business advice expertise, and developing a portfolio of tested interventions.
Delivered together, across both Norfolk and Suffolk, they have reinforced each other for a deeper
impact, evolving an established approach of consistent delivery across both counties. Partners
include the New Anglia Growth Hub, Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils, Suffolk and Norfolk
Chambers of Commerce, the University of East Anglia (UEA), the University of Suffolk, and
Groundwork East.
The purpose of this report is to identify best practise and barriers on the road to Net Zero for
companies in Norfolk and Suffolk. The evidence in this report will inform advisory focal points,
directly contributing to county-level Climate Emergency Plans and will provide the foundation for a
Communications Plan across both counties.
A mixed methods research design consisting of an online questionnaire survey, a one-to-one
interview survey, and a focus group survey was implemented to collect evidence. Data from the
three methods were triangulated to improve the validity and depth of the findings (Creswell, 2014).
Each method was led by a different researcher. The use of multiple observers in a single study
further improves the validity of findings (Archibald, 2016). Further details of the study’s
methodology are provided in the Appendix.
The report is structured as follows. The next section outlines the report’s policy context at both
national and regional levels. Section 3 presents evidence on best practise on the road to Net Zero
focussing on carbon measurement practise, carbon planning practise, Net Zero communications,
and Net Zero actions. Next, Section 4 presents evidence on general barriers on the road to Net
Zero and explores features of this in terms of sources of advice and intrinsic and extrinsic
motivation for Net Zero actions. Section 5 details the sector-specific and county specific nuances
that the data reveal and Section 6 draws on all the findings and recommendations to provide
recommendations for marketing communications and management and leadership across both
counties. A final section concludes.