Working with customers to make net zero carbon a reality

Working with customers to make net zero carbon a reality

A new report launched on the 8th September 2021 by housing provider, Orbit, and the Chartered Institute of Housing, puts the customer at the centre of the conversation about how we reach net zero carbon. It looks at the understanding, attitudes and priorities of social rented households to reaching net zero carbon, as well as examining more widely what matters to them in relation to their environment. 

Titled ‘Working with Customers to Make Net Zero Carbon a Reality’, the report is one of the first in-depth pieces of work of this kind and provides insight that will help the housing sector consider how to shape decarbonisation plans.

Paul Richards, Group Director of Customer and Communities at Orbit, commented: “There are difficult and complex environmental challenges that face us all in accelerating the decarbonisation of UK homes, but to date there has been little consideration of what the impact is for customers.

“Many customers are already struggling with their heating and energy bills, with one in four of our households having gone without heating in the last 12 months to save money, and 54% of customers spending more than 10% of their take-home income on energy bills – over double the UK average spend.

“Any plan to retrofit properties should and must reflect the daily priorities of lower income households – we don’t want to further pressure customers in a position where they must choose between whether to heat or eat as a result of decarbonisation. Our research demonstrates that it is essential to build an ongoing rapport with customers on this agenda, and to undertake further work to understand the short and long-term plans and associated costs of moving to net zero carbon, including shaping future policies for energy pricing.”

The research also shows that, even though 73% of customers think that climate change is already impacting them (versus 63% national average), there is a general lack of understanding about the concept of net zero carbon, with 17% of customers having never heard of the term and 40% of those who have, not being clear on what it means.

Paul continued: “There is a great need to increase public awareness of the behaviours and choices that will benefit our environment, and it is clear we must work with customers to understand our role in supporting them with this behaviour change, as well as building and adapting the homes we provide.

“The sector is in a unique position and, with support, it can play an important role in improving the energy efficiency of the UK’s housing stock, helping to reduce carbon emissions and improving the quality of life for customers. But to achieve this, we must work hand-in-hand with the Government, the sector and our supply partners, and most importantly we must listen to and work with our customers. They need to have a strong voice during future planning if we are to achieve net zero carbon.”

James Prestwich, Director of Policy and External Affairs at the Chartered Institute of Housing, added: “Reaching net zero by 2050 will not happen unless landlords and tenants work together to drive the systemic and behavioural changes required. Tenants will be looking to their housing providers for answers on how new technologies will operate and benefit them within their home and help mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. This joint research with tenants and Orbit Group demonstrates CIH’s commitment to tackling the climate emergency and highlights the importance of genuine collaboration and cooperation between landlords and tenants.”

In addition to the research, the report includes insight from senior colleagues at Orbit and the Chartered Institute of Housing on the challenges of the net zero carbon delivery, touching upon topics including fuel poverty and affordability, the impact on housing associations, asset management and capital, customer engagement, and learnings from Orbit’s Stratford-on-Avon decarbonisation project.

Key research findings:

  • 73% of customers believe climate change is already impacting them. This compares to 63% for the general population (BEIS Public Attitudes Tracker).
  • 79% of customers are concerned about climate change.
  • 54% of customers are spending more than 10% of their take-home income on energy bills. This is more than double the UK spend (3.9%) according to Ofgem.
  • 25% of customers have gone without heating in the last 12 months to save money.
  • 17% of customer have never heard of net zero carbon.
  • 58% of customers are keen to be told about opportunities for how they can save money on their utility bills.
  • 57% of customers have swapped energy provider to save money in recent years.

To download a copy of the report, visit

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