Net Zero Heroes – How can eco-businesses make a difference?

The UK is now home to thousands of eco-minded businesses already taking steps towards net zero. For those already well on the journey, one of the biggest challenges is bringing other businesses with them. They might be looking at their supply chain and procurement and pushing to only work with businesses that are reducing their impact. For some, it’s about looking at the industry they work in and looking to see more action from their peers. Whatever the reason, encouraging other businesses to make positive change is a big priority for those who have already done it.

We gathered a group of five business leaders already well on their net zero journey to understand what they felt businesses like themselves could do – here are the top tips:

1. Remember we’re in this together

Eco businesses can’t think of themselves as siloed. Working with your entire ecosystem is key. “We're all interconnected and we're all going to rely on one another,” said Gareth Dinnage, MD at eco printing company Seacourt. “ We all need to challenge our impacts, all of our suppliers, all of our customers. This is a moment where we need everyone to be pulling in the same direction.”

2. Communicate your value

It’s vital that businesses on the journey position themselves as such and start to communicate their value to others. “We should communicate what it is that we're doing differently and why customers should have preference for your products over and above anyone else's,” says Dinnage. “Over the next decade as the sustainability agenda becomes more prevalent this will put you in a stronger position.”

3. Create a supply chain charter

If you’re looking at your supply chain and wondering where to start, the creation of a charter could be a good place. Communicate the points of action you’d like to see if you’re going to work with someone. “I went to every single one of my suppliers before Christmas and I gave them my supply chain charter,” explains Mark Jankovich, CEO and founder, Delphis Eco. “I said I'd love you to join me on this journey. If you're not on a journey, then I wouldn't be working with you. It's very simple. A few weeks later a bunch of them called back and said we love the challenge and actually we've already done a whole bunch of stuff.”

4. Listen and understand

Not all businesses have the resources or the knowledge to make changes overnight. Try to understand their position and what they might need. “We engage with the clients and say ‘tell us why reusable options don’t work for you,’ rather than going in with a solution immediately,” explains Jo-Anne Chidley, co-founder, Beauty Kitchen. “Generally people want to be good. But it needs to be accessible. It needs to be value-driven and at the right cost.”

5. Find influential platforms

If business leaders are looking for a way to access many other businesses, there are influential platforms and communities to explore and join. “I'm on the British Beauty Council,” explains Chidley. “When you think of the beauty industry we’re talking about everything from Unilever to independent hair dressing salons. Industry bodies make these all more accessible.”

6. Don’t be afraid to grab attention

Sometimes one of the most impactful ways to make a statement is to create a spectacle. A physical and unavoidable call to action for others. “We wanted to communicate the urgency of climate change so we worked with a number of other businesses in Bath to create a big sculpture of a red house which we floated down the river in Bath,” explains Robert Delius, Divisional Director Architect, Head of Sustainability, Stride Treglown. “It was incredible, and thousands of people saw and engaged with it – including the media.”

7. Give direction where possible

When smaller businesses aren’t sure where to start, point them in the direction of tools and benchmarks that can help them to understand where to start. “B-Corp is great for some businesses at a certain point in their journey but for some it’s just too much,” explains Nita Woods, Sustainability Strategist and Social Entrepreneur, Out of the Woods. “I’ve started using something called Future Fit, it’s a condensed list of indicators people can work through. I say to people to start with just two and go from there.”

8. Share your journey

You may not have all of the answers, but your progress and actions to date could become an inspiration and a guide to others. Be as open as you possibly can and get your message out. “I’ve been encouraging companies to open source their journey,” says Woods. “The more companies like ours can share what worked and what didn’t work, the more we can help people who don’t know where to start.”

9. Look at where the money is going

It’s not simply about who you’re spending money with, but also where your money (and that of your employees) is invested. “We all have bank accounts, pensions and employees pensions,” says Woods. “So if you really believe in the environment, then perhaps stop putting your money in funds and giving money to companies that don't believe in your values. Where is your money? Could it be with a different fund?”

Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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