23% of businesses feel they are not operating sustainably, according to new AIB data carried out by Amárach Research.

Out of the 300 businesses surveyed, just over half feel they are only operating somewhat sustainably.

When asked about their progress in implementing measures to deal with the environment, 34% of businesses reported they are only beginning to address climate change and have a long way to go, while 6% don't know where to start.

Businesses listed "upfront investment costs" as the top barrier for their organisations to act more sustainably, with 55% of businesses mentioning it as a barrier.

46% of organisations with more than 250 employees said they plan to spend over €100,000 on sustainability over the next two years, and 51% of all organisations, said they plan to spend less than €40,000.

Other barriers included uncertainty of return on investment and a lack of clear sector guidelines or advice.

Over the past two years, 44% of businesses have demanded more sustainable actions from their suppliers or switched to more sustainable suppliers, while 44% of firns have also purchased more sustainable equipment.

"Businesses will play a pivotal role in delivering Ireland's carbon emission targets for 2030," said AIB Chief Executive Colin Hunt.

"However, it is clear that many of them see the upfront costs of this as presenting an initial challenge.

"Given the scale and growing importance of the climate change and sustainability agenda, banks need to play their part in supporting SMEs in the transition to a greener future by enabling them to make the right investments to deliver greater efficiency and a lower carbon footprint," he added.

Mr Hunt said AIB is supporting businesses in the green transition by making €70 million available through the new SBCI Energy Efficiency Loan Scheme.

"Clearly, we all need to do more in the fight against climate change, and in AIB's case this begins by enabling the transition to a greener economy, supporting our customers and helping them make sustainable choice," he added.