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How small and medium-sized businesses can cut their greenhouse gas emissions

With energy prices spiking and concerns about climate change at an all-time high, there has never been a better time for businesses to go green. But where do you start, what do you focus on and how can you find accurate and helpful advice?

Why should businesses go green?

Firstly, going green saves you money as you increase productivity whilst decreasing costs. The UK Government has committed to halving emissions by 2030 and achieving ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050. It is only a matter of time before this has a knock-on effect on small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs), particularly as large companies increasingly expect suppliers to play their part and address climate issues in order to win tenders. Improving energy efficiency will save you money and being proactive about climate issues will improve your reputation, bring new business opportunities, improve staff recruitment and retention, and also help to futureproof your company.

Where do I start to improve my environmental impact?

The first step is to understand the impact of your company on the environment. From a climate perspective, the key issue is carbon emissions – the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of your company’s activities. Energy efficiency measures and waste reduction cut carbon and can also save money, so this is a good place for companies to start.

The Carbon Trust has been helping businesses and the public sector to reduce carbon emissions since 2001. Its report on The Journey Towards Net Zero for SMEs explains how you can go about measuring and reducing your carbon footprint. The Carbon Trust also has an online carbon footprint calculator for SMEs.

The Federation of Small Businesses also has a series of helpful articles and advice online as does the British Chamber of Commerce.

How to measure the carbon footprint of your company?

Just 3% of smaller businesses have measured their carbon footprint in the past five years. However, over 13,000 large companies disclose their carbon emissions through the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a charity set up to use investor power to encourage companies to measure and reduce emissions. In November 2021, CDP launched a climate disclosure framework for SMEs. Even if you aren’t ready to disclose your emissions at this point, the framework will help you understand what to measure and why it matters.

Ready to commit?

If you want to commit to net zero, then the UK Government’s SME Climate Hub is the website for you. It provides a suite of free tools and resources including a Climate Fit training course and advice on accessing financial support. You will have to pledge your commitment and agree to disclose progress every year in order to access the website.

Help for retail and hospitality businesses to go green

In August 2021, the Retail Sector Council launched a website with free advice and resources for independent companies in the retail and hospitality sectors. Green Street offers simple and straightforward advice along with suggestions for practical actions that businesses can take to reduce their carbon footprint and become more sustainable.

Is funding available for businesses to go green?

A range of green business grants are available. You can apply for free energy assessments or carbon surveys to identify emissions from your operations and get expert advice on how to reduce them. You can find a comprehensive guide to opportunities on the Zero Carbon Business website.

If you are based in England, your local Growth Hub can be an invaluable source of information, advice, access to training, funding opportunities and more.

Beware greenwash

Consumers and the media are increasingly wary of companies’ green claims and ‘virtue signalling’. As a company, you will no doubt want to get the maximum reputational and financial benefit from the work you do to tackle climate issues, but be careful how you communicate. The most admirable companies are transparent, accountable and honest about their climate action. Always follow the Green Claims Code, which was introduced by the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) in October 2021 to protect consumers from misleading claims.

Consider a better way of doing business

B Corps are businesses that balance profit with purpose. There are over 4,000 certified B Corps, most of which are SMES. Companies have to meet high standards of social, environmental and ethical performance in order to achieve certification. They do this using the B Impact Assessment, a confidential tool that is available free of charge online. Whether you are considering becoming a B Corp or not, the B Impact Assessment is a great way to explore what sustainability would look like for your company.

Going one step further, social enterprises (such as us here at One Home) are set up to put people and planet before profits. We make a living by doing something that makes the world a better place. To find out more about social enterprise, visit the Social Enterprise UK website.

The bottom line

Going green is good for business and good for the planet. As Sonya Bhonsle of CDP says, “SMEs play a major role in economies around the world; without them, we cannot limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C”. However large or small your company is, everything you do to tackle climate change will make a difference to the planet and your bottom line.


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