Small companies and the race to net zero: 'No business must be left behind', says report

Small companies and the race to net zero: 'No business must be left behind', says report
Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events

Posted: Thu 29th Jul 2021

Banks and the government must ensure small companies are "not forgotten or left behind" in the transition to net zero and are supported with financial incentives and high quality information.

That's the claim of a new report by Banks for Net Zero which warned that 99% of British businesses are likely to be unprepared for carbon reduction policy and regulation.

The UK has a target to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050 but the group, which has banking members including Barclays, Handelsbanken, Tide and Triodos, said the government's focus so far has been on big companies and the highest carbon emitters even though any new policies will affect every company in the UK.

It warned that if SMEs, which account for 99% of British firms, are neglected, one in four workers and 52% of the UK’s turnover could be left behind in the race to net zero.

Helping small firms reduce their carbon footprint

The report called for incentives for smaller businesses that are making net zero a priority. That could include offering “green” financial products and services that reward businesses invest in decarbonising their operations with lower interest rates and lowering taxes with business rates relief linked to carbon footprint or enhanced capital allowances for investments in decarbonisation.

Access to high quality and trustworthy information is also needed, the study said. Although services already exist, such as the government's UK Business Climate Hub website, a survey by the Carbon Trust found that 71% of SMEs could not recommend a single web source for help on getting to net zero.

Small businesses need advice on how to measure their carbon footprint, reduce it and finance the necessary investments, Bankers for Net Zero said, while there should also be a strong emphasis on peer-to-peer learning with business owners coming together to learn from each other.

The report's final recommendation was the standardisation of approaches to measurement and reporting of progress towards net zero, so that access to green government schemes or green finance is not hindered by excessively complexity reporting requirements.

Louise Kjellerup Roper, CEO of Volans and Bankers for Net Zero founding partner, said: "This is a golden opportunity to take what has been an extremely difficult year for our country’s SMEs and turn it into something positive.

"We need to help them come through the COVID-19 crisis as greener and more sustainable businesses, complying with increasing regulation and responding to growing consumer demand for action on the climate crisis.

"It will be a win-win for businesses and the environment. No SME should be forgotten or left behind in the UK’s transition to net zero. We will not get to net zero as a country without SMEs taking action now."

What are you doing to reduce the impact of your business on the environment? We'd love to know! Email us. If you're an Enterprise Nation member [sign up for free], you can also join the Green Businesses group to connect and share sustainability ideas.

Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events
I'm a freelance content creator and event host who helps small businesses and the organisations that support them. I'm also Enterprise Nation's Local Leader for Bristol. I have 19 years of experience as a small business journalist having interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs from billionaires like Sir Richard Branson to the founders behind brand new start-ups. I've worked for a range of leading small business publications and support groups, most recently as head of content at Enterprise Nation where I was responsible for the prolific output of content on the company's blog and social media. I now freelance for Enterprise Nation including hosting the Small Business sessions podcast. I'm based in Bristol where I run and host regular events with the local small business community in my role as Enterprise Nation's Local Leader for Bristol. I also have strong connections with other major business organisations in the south west region. In total, I've hosted over 100 events including conferences with an audience of hundreds for international brands like Xero and Facebook and live web chats from inside 10 Downing Street. With my partner, I co-run Lifestyle District, a lifestyle blog focused on culture, art, theatre and photography.

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