A new survey of senior UK company executives highlights the growing importance of Sustainability for British businesses, in terms of both the site locations they choose, and their ongoing ability to compete. The survey was carried out on behalf of Charleston Regional Development Alliance in South Carolina (www.crda.org), which is focused on ensuring that Sustainability is a cornerstone of Charleston’s offer as a business location.

The results show that 72% of senior executives think that Sustainability is either very important or “a prime consideration” for their business*. Sixty-one per cent gave the same response when asked about the importance of Sustainability when it comes to the location of their company. And 62% said it was a key consideration when choosing a new business site.

When asked whether Sustainability was an important contributor to their company’s competitiveness, just under half said it was very important or the most important factor, and 68% said the issue had become more important to their business in the past 12 months.

The findings are a validation of the longstanding efforts by regions like Charleston to offer a business location that recognises the importance of Sustainability. Charleston, which sits along the coast and is home to the deepest US sea port on the Atlantic, has long (and of necessity) understood the need for policies and projects that respect the environment, and has made Sustainability a core value.  So the region was building on an already solid base when it announced its Climate Action Plan earlier this year, targetting a 56% reduction in emissions by 2030, and net zero by 2050.

Resource is being ploughed into a move to electric vehicles, with the Charleston Area Transportation Authority (CARTA) transitioning its fleet to battery-electric vehicles, and locally-based OEMs moving quickly on EV production: Mercedes-Benz’s North Charleston facility is key to its electric van strategy, with the eSprinter van sheduled to enter production in mid-2023. Volvo Cars, with a shift to all electric and hybrid models, plans to be carbon neutral by 2025.

Down on the coast, the deepwater port has taken on one of the state’s largest environmental efforts to date — and was one of the first in the nation to consider “people” impacts. Among its initiatives, the port has restored 22 acres of salt marsh and reduced port-related air emissions. It is funding three air monitoring stations, and investing in a new fleet of hybrid cranes that run 100% on electric battery power.

In addition, companies locating in Charleston have access to a variety of green energy solutions. GreenGasUSA provides renewable and natural gas to individuals and companies, while Santee Cooper (which was the first to put solar power on the South Carolina grid in 2006) has plans to make South Carolina a leader in renewable and solar energy, adding up to 1,500 MW of new solar power across the state, and is working in co-operation with Berkeley Electric Co-operative to increase delivery of renewable power.

Peter Hill, MD at the US arm of precision technology specialist Stoba says that Charleston’s determination to provide sustainable  fundamentals for business is important. The company is looking to develop low voltage, high power integrated power trains in the region “and Charleston is doing a great job, as an aggressively growing location, to put in place the right infrastructure for transportation and logistics. It’s a great place to grow a sustainability business like Stoba’s E-Systems.

For UK companies, this strategy of building a sustainable infrastructure, offering green logistics and renewable sources of energy appears to hit the mark. In the CRDA survey, a renewable energy supply was seen as the most important consideration in achieving a sustainable business, followed by green transport and logistics, and eco-friendly infrastructure.

CRDA’s VP of global development Mike Graney commented: I’m not surprised by the results of the survey of UK firms. Sustainability is growing in importance as a location factor for domestic US companies and even more so for international firms. Charleston, given our oceanfront location, has been focused on climate change and sea-level rise for many years. We have been fortunate to grow local companies and recruit global firms with a corporate focus on sustainability, creating a bond between public and private sectors. Companies interested in sustainability will feel welcome and at home in Charleston.

For more information about Charleston’s Sustainability strategy visit: https://www.crda.org/assets/pdf/esg.pdf

*Survey of 100 UK company senior executives October 2021