Do small businesses care about climate change?

With the stark warnings issued during the COP26 climate summit still a recent memory – and COP27 scheduled for next autumn – what are UK small businesses doing to help reduce carbon emissions and heal the planet?

The climate crisis is rarely out of the news, and people throughout the UK are taking steps to reduce their impact on the planet, but data suggests this is not always reflected in the workplace. 

Large organisations have a natural advantage in this area, with bigger budgets and more scope to deploy resources into green initiatives, but what about smaller firms?  

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) recently surveyed attitudes within its membership and uncovered a high level of concern, but also room to do more. 

According to the research, more than half (56%) of small businesses agree that the planet is facing a climate crisis, yet little more than a third (36%) have a strategy in place to do something about it. 

While 67% have taken steps to reduce energy consumption, including 64% increasing recycling and 22% installing a smart meter, only nine per cent have committed to making their vehicle fleet emission-free by 2030. 

Commenting on the findings, FSB national vice chair of policy and advocacy Martin McTague said small businesses faced challenges in converting to lower-impact systems. 

“In the face of many competing priorities, taking action on sustainability has been a ‘nice to do’ challenge for small businesses, who often find themselves cash, resource, and most importantly, time-poor,” he said. 

“Now, however, with increased levels of environmental awareness and the pressing need to reduce our impact on the environment before it’s too late, this is no longer a ‘nice to do’, but a ‘need to do’.” 

>See also: Environmental checklist for small businesses

Energy saving tips for small businesses 

Sweeping changes to operations and infrastructure are naturally a daunting prospect for small business owners, but taking small steps can lead to a big saving on energy and cost. 

1. Install a smart meter 

Smart meters eliminate the need for engineer visits to read your electricity and gas meters. Bills are calculated automatically, meaning a saving on trips as well as red tape.  

By acquiring a meter with an ‘in home display’ (IHD), you can get real insights on your energy consumption, potentially isolating equipment and usage patterns that are a drain on resources.  

Contact your energy supplier to find out if your small business is eligible for an installation.

2. Run an audit  

A light audit of your business should return plenty of information about where you could make changes, either straight away or gradually in coming months and years. 

An IHD-equipped smart meter will tell you a lot about usage trends and centres of high energy consumption. You could also assess your vehicle fleet, working patterns (incorporating working from home or hybrid models), business trips and even low-efficiency legacy infrastructure. 

3. Communicate effectively 

Sometimes it just takes a few small nudges to change people’s behaviour. By pointing out the location of recycling bins and encouraging people to switch off when devices are not in use, for example, you’ll remind people that conservation can happen at work, not just in the home. 

4. Consider government incentives 

The government regularly introduces new incentives to promote greener practices. Admittedly, these are just as regularly changed or even halted depending on priorities, but it’s worth keeping an eye on which grants and discounts are available for business. 

Could you save on microgeneration systems, such as solar panels? Would a cycle-to-work scheme cut your small business’ carbon footprint? There is plenty to consider – and you could save money by grabbing opportunities. 

5. Involve your people 

These are just a handful of ideas on how your small business can contribute to the fight against climate change, but there are many other opportunities out there. Often, the best ideas come from the grassroots, so involve staff members in the conversation. 

Invite ideas, either in a meeting or via your preferred messaging platform; you could even offer a prize for the most impactful suggestion. It could prove a big morale-booster, as well as a way to uncover clever ways to make your business more efficient. 

For more information about the benefits of installing a smart meter in your workplace, visit the Smart Energy GB at smartenergygb.org

This article is part of a paid-for information campaign for Smart Energy GB.

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