What can local businesses do to help fight climate change, and how can they benefit as a result? SEMLEP’s Growth Hub Manager, Vicky Hlomuka takes a look.
The effects of climate change are becoming clearer and clearer and are currently only set to get worse. The science is clear; we need to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050 or risk facing serious consequences. Individuals, organisations and governments are becoming increasingly aware of how important it is to do their part to help reduce carbon emissions and make the planet a cleaner, safer and more pleasant place to live.
But can any one individual, or even one business actually make that much difference? You’re probably thinking that big multinational corporations could possibly do something, but what can an SME realistically do to help?
An awful lot, as it turns out. With COP26, a major international conference on how to tackle climate change, being held in Glasgow this November, businesses of all sizes, from huge multinationals down to sole traders, are committing to do their bit to help cut carbon emissions and protect the planet. The Government wants to make it as easy as possible for businesses to play their part and has partnered with business owners and respected climate groups to help SMEs join them.
SMEs significantly outnumber large corporations, so the effect they can have by working together shouldn’t be underestimated. No matter how big or small your business is, or which industry you’re in, your commitment can make a genuine difference. Not only to the planet, but to your customers, and to your operating costs!
Even the smallest businesses produce carbon, either through their building, their vehicles, or simply through their supply chain. By cutting your emissions and providing innovative climate solutions, you will meet the expectations of customers, retain market access, cut operating costs and win new business.
The government is asking businesses to make a commitment, and pledge to half their carbon emissions by 2030, and to reach net zero by 2050. That is, reach the point where you and your supply chain are putting no more carbon into the atmosphere than you are removing from it. Participating businesses will then be asked to disclose their progress towards these goals each year, to allow the government to track how well the UK is doing.
There are plenty of tools and support to help you achieve this and measure your success, both from the government, and from SEMLEP’s Growth Hub and its partners. For example, the Low Carbon Workspaces scheme provides match-funded grants of up to £5,000 to businesses to help pay for projects that will cut their carbon emissions and minimise waste. This will allow businesses to recover up to a third of the costs of a wide array of different energy-saving measures, reducing the upfront costs, and helping cut the time it takes to recover your investment.
Although doing your bit to help reduce the effects of climate change is a good enough reason by itself, becoming more environmentally sustainable is good for your business too. Cutting your emissions by reducing energy bills, through improving insulation or installing your own renewable energy sources can potentially save your business money and provide a competitive advantage.
At the same time, by making your business more sustainable now, you will be future-proofing it for years to come. For example, by 2030 you won’t be able to buy new petrol and diesel vehicles in the UK. By getting ahead of this change now, you will be boosting your opportunities for the future.
On top of this, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are joining an international community of thousands of like-minded businesses, governments, universities, cities and regions, all working together to make the future a brighter and cleaner place. Participating businesses will be recognised by the United Nations Race to Zero campaign, and you will be able to publicise your involvement to show your customers and stakeholders that you are a socially responsible company.
To find out more about how you can help, visit the SME Climate Hub. This provides a one-stop shop for making your climate commitment and gives you access to best-in-class tools and resources for measuring your emissions, developing your climate strategy, reducing your own emissions and the emissions in your value chain, and exemplifies complementary offset projects.