Today, the Business for Clean Air (B4CA) initiative launches to arm large UK companies with the tools to tackle air pollution, after growing public concern over poor air quality returning post lockdown. The Taskforce behind the initiative, Business Clean Air Taskforce (B-CAT), has been assembled by charity Global Action Plan and comprises Uber, Philips, Canary Wharf Group, Engie, Blueair, Octopus Electric Vehicles, Ricardo, BP Chargemaster, Zehnder, LeasePlan and the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).
• The initiative offers businesses based in the UK free guidance on the actions they can implement now to support a green recovery and improve air quality long term.
• Companies can also join a free webinar series starting next month, to share and learn from other businesses.
• Using the initiative, the Taskforce is calling on large businesses to play their part in improving air quality, such as promoting active travel, using cleaner vehicles, improving indoor air quality and reducing emissions from industrial activity.
A recent survey by the Business for Clean Air Taskforce (commissioned by Guy’s St. Thomas’ Charity) found incorporating air pollution in recovery strategies would be welcomed by the public, with a large number of Brits (74%) wanting businesses to improve air pollution as part of their coronavirus recovery so that neighbourhoods don’t go back to the way they were. A majority of the public (85%) also listed at least one specific pollution-reduction measure they want businesses to take, including: working from home; flexible working hours; more electric cars/vans used for delivering goods; businesses taking steps to improve air quality in the workplace; increased number of click and collect grocery services; more cargo bikes used for delivering goods (within a 10 mile range); introducing workplace parking levies to discourage driving; personal deliveries banned in the workplace.
Maintaining lower levels of air pollution could also help prevent a second spike in the coronavirus, which has been increasingly linked in scientific research. Professor Stephen Holgate says: “There have been reports from China, Italy and the UK linking ambient air pollution with COVID-19 infection as well as mortality. If confirmed surely the case is made to avoid yet another adverse health effect from dirty air.”
This sentiment is echoed by the public, with the majority of the public (72%) believing that clean air is even more important now because coronavirus can affect people’s lungs.
Chris Large, Co-CEO at Global Action Plan, the environmental charity behind the initiative, says: “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. The steps that will cut pollution will also reduce road accidents, improve work-life balance, promote healthy lifestyles and enhance community connections. There’s a brighter future that any large business can help to bring about, and our taskforce is offering free support to help businesses begin the change.”
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “We know the impact that air pollution has on communities across the UK which is why – as set out in the Clean Air Strategy – the government, businesses and individuals all need to come together to tackle this problem. The Business for Clean Air initiative set a strong example for businesses to recognise the role they have to play.
“As well as congratulating those businesses who have already signed up, I’d also encourage more companies to make the pledge, taking action to make their operations cleaner for the good of their employees, customers and the wider community.”
Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, Shirley Rodrigues, said: “Toxic air contributes to thousands of premature deaths in London every year and there is now emerging evidence linking air pollution with an increased vulnerability to COVID-19. The Mayor has taken bold action with measures such as the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone and Low Emission Bus Zones, and they are already making a difference to the air we breathe.
“It’s clear the public want action from the business sector, so it’s great to see businesses stepping up to the challenge to tackle our air pollution crisis. We encourage all of London’s biggest firms to come forward with ambitious clean air plans that could improve the quality of life not only of their workers and customers, but also everybody who lives in our capital.”
Jamie Heywood, Regional General Manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, Uber, says: “Climate change and urban air quality are two of the biggest environmental challenges we face, and bold action needs to be taken to address them. Uber’s vision is for every car on the road to be shared and electric – in London we’re aiming for all 45,000 drivers on the app to be using zero-emission vehicles by 2025, and since the launch of our Clean Air Plan more than one million journeys on the Uber app have been taken in electric vehicles. We’re proud to be one of the businesses behind the Business for Clean Air Initiative, collaborating with partners from a range of sectors to take action on air quality.”
Mark Leftwich, Managing Director for Philips UKI Consumer Business says: “Many people think of air pollution as causing or exacerbating respiratory illnesses like asthma. This is correct, but it is also not the complete picture. Air pollution touches every part of the body from our brains to our hearts and it can even impact the health of unborn children. I speak with many companies that want to take action on air pollution to help avert climate breakdown and avoid triggering further health issues but are unclear on what actions they can and should be taking. Philips has a long and proven track-record in implementing sustainability initiatives that improve, for the better, our relationship with the environment, our business strategy and operational structures. The Business for Clean Air Initiative is a vital forum for large organisations across the UK to take effective action swiftly, openly learn from each other and encourage each other to go further.”
Professor Stephen Holgate, UK government appointed Clean Air Champion and Medical Research Council Clinical Professor of Immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton, says: “Air pollution is cutting lives short and exacerbating existing health conditions for millions of people. I welcome the B4CA initiative and call on any employer committed to health and wellbeing to sign up, cut pollution and protect its workforce and customers.”
The Business for Clean Air initiative is free and open to any large business. Companies are invited to visit the website to find out more and sign up here or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.