Business for Clean Air group debuts today in bid to prevent air pollution levels from soaring as lockdown lifts
Environmental charity Global Action Plan has today launched a new initiative aimed at helping businesses reduce their contribution to air pollution as lockdown measures lift and millions of employees return to workplaces across the UK.
Dubbed Business for Clean Air, the new initiative is backed by a taskforce that includes the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and a number of leading corporate players, including ride sharing giant Uber, electronics company Philips, property company Canary Wharf Group, and energy and engineering firm Engie.
The initiative is open to any business in the UK and will offer companies free guidance on how they can improve air quality and support a green recovery to the coronavirus crisis. A free webinar series for businesses will kick off next month.
Chris Large, senior partner at Global Action Plan, said business leadership on air pollution was "imperative" if the UK is to curb the risk of air pollution worsening in the wake of the recent lockdown conditions.
"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," he said. "The steps that will cut pollution will also reduce road accidents, improve work-life balance, promote healthy lifestyles and enhance community connections."
The group said that it had formed in response to growing public pressure on business leaders to play an active role in preventing air pollution from soaring as lockdown lifts and the economy restarts.
Just under three quarters of the public want businesses to take action to improve air quality as part of their coronavirus recovery, according to a survey of more than 2,000 people published today by the newly-formed group.
Among the pollution reduction measures suggested by respondents were flexible working hours and home-working, electric and cargo bike goods delivery services, and the introduction of parking levies that disincentivise commuters from using conventional cars.
Environment minister Rebecca Pow congratulated the initative's founding members for taking a lead and urged other companies to follow suit.
"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," she said. "The Business for Clean Air initiative set a strong example for businesses to recognise the role they have to play."
The group also stressed that maintaining lower levels of air pollution could help prevent a second spike in coronavirus infections, pointing to a growing body of scientific research that links ambient air pollution with the virus' infection and mortality rates.
Furthermore, the ongoing health crisis has also heightened the public's awareness of the dangers of air pollution, according to Business for Clean Air. More that 70 per cent of respondents in its survey agreed that clean air is "even more important now" due to the coronavirus' impact on respiratory health.
Jamie Heywood, regional general manager for northern and Eastern Europe at Uber, said that the company was proud to be collaborating with partners from a range of sectors on the initiative.
"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," he said. "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."
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