Pandemic spurs small firms into climate action

Energy & Low Carbon Industry | Surveys

Environment-savvy small firms have been stirred into action by the pandemic and propelled saving the planet to the top of their agenda – and business owners now see sustainability as a critical issue and want to take action as lockdown restrictions ease.

That’s according to new research from Small Business Britain and BT Skills For Tomorrow, that found virtually all small firms (99%) are now convinced of the importance of sustainability.

The Covid-19 pandemic has catapulted helping the environment to the forefront of business owners’ minds, with almost half (47%) of small businesses seeing this issue as more important than before lockdown began.

Over two thirds (68%) are keen to commit to the UK government’s target of going net-zero by 2050, with the data also indicating many may have made progress towards this in the last year.

A third of small firms say they have taken greater action to become more sustainable, with 47% saying digital technologies have been a key enabler through more remote working and online activity.

Michelle Ovens, founder of Small Business Britain, said: “Entrepreneurs are natural change-makers, and the tremendous passion and commitment to protecting the environment we always see amongst this group has clearly been heightened by this crisis.

“Covid-19 has grown awareness of our vulnerability to global issues and sparked profound change. It has also inspired us about what is possible when people work together.

“Representing 99% of UK business small firms can play a huge role in helping the UK, and the planet, get to net zero. We just need to give them the right support.”

The research polled over 1000 firms in Small Business Britain’s UK community and found that despite the growth in environmental consciousness and commitments, small businesses need support to reach net zero.

Over three quarters (77%) are not clear how to measure carbon emissions, with 73% keen for more training and education to understand this.

Entrepreneur Elle Carcamo, owner of Caribe Coffee, added: “Our business is only too aware of the devastating effects of climate change, as we import green coffee from Central America where communities are directly affected.

“We definitely want to commit to net zero by 2050. We don’t know exactly how we will get there, but we are currently making progress across things like the way we import goods, through to the energy suppliers we use when working from home.”

Pete Oliver, MD, SME, for BT’s Enterprise business, said: “It’s encouraging to see that virtually all small businesses recognise the importance of sustainability and that during the pandemic, digital technologies have been a key enabler in helping small firms to reduce their carbon footprint, through remote working and a greater online presence.

“However, the fact that over three quarters of them don’t know how to measure their carbon emissions shows that small firms need more support and training to take action. Small businesses can take their first steps towards making a difference by signing up to the Government’s Business Climate Hub. While we’re also making free learning content available via our Skills for Tomorrow programme.”

The research follows the launch of Small Business Planet campaign by Small Business Britain to engage and encourage entrepreneurs and small businesses to commit to Net Zero before 2050, supporting the broader call to action and efforts in this area by the UK Government.

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