Six tips smaller businesses can use to make a positive impact on climate change

It’s not an easy time to be running a small business. But regardless of the challenges posed by the likes of the pandemic, rising inflation and Brexit, one very big problem that isn’t going away any time soon is climate change – and the requirement on all businesses, big and small, to reduce their carbon footprint.

British Business Bank’s recent report, Small Business and the Transition to Net Zero, found that while individually their impact is relatively small, SMEs account for 43-53% of the UK’s business greenhouse gas emissions. Collectively, they make a big impact, so every business can make a difference.

In a bid to understand the kinds of things small businesses can do, we hosted a Net Zero Heroes webinar bringing together a range of different businesses to discuss their sustainability journeys. Here are some of the key takeaways:

1. The challenge is big but so is the opportunity

Customers are looking to align themselves with businesses that are taking action against climate change and driving sustainability. “People vote with their feet and want to spend their hard earned money with brands that resonate with them,” says Gareth Dinnage, managing director of printing company, Seacourt. “The opportunity to be transparent and show ambition is huge.”


man an woman sitting at table discussing with a stack of pound coins, in the background a chart showing c02 going downwards

2. Bigger businesses are looking for sustainable supply chain partners

Established companies are starting to look to their supply chains to see sustainability goals and values. Smaller companies who lead on green initiatives can gain competitive advantage. “Larger companies are led by compliance and regulatory burden, so they are perhaps a few steps ahead and starting to look to their supply chains for sustainability,” explained Shanika Amarasekara, British Business Bank, Chief Impact Officer. “This is an opportunity for smaller businesses to shine.”


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3. Don’t wait for perfection

Once smaller businesses are on their sustainability journey, it’s easy to become focused on finding perfect solutions before launching them but this can hold them back. “Sometimes we wait for perfection to announce or launch anything new,” says Mama Bamboo CEO and Sales Director, Laura Crawford. “Actually, some of the tiny changes we can make along the way to individual processes can make a big difference.”


4. Work with your manufacturers to find answers

If businesses aren’t sure where to start in creating a more eco-friendly product, they start a dialogue with suppliers and manufacturers to find the answers they need. “For us it has been a collaborative process,” says Trash Planet founder, Holly Boxall, who has developed a new sustainable trainer. “We were lucky to find a manufacturer who was open to new ideas and flexible in the way they work. We were able to start at the end goal and work backwards.”


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5. Collaboration is key

Inspiration about how you can improve your business processes and products from an ESG perspective can come from other companies. “There’s a lot we can learn from each other in different sectors and those further ahead in the journey,” said Amarasekara. “It’s interesting to hear from those who have used being green as an opportunity to push business growth and learn from them.”


6. Create a powerful narrative

Cost can seem to be a big barrier when it comes to creating more sustainable products. For those who need to increase their prices as a result, a strong narrative around quality and the value to customers is essential. “We had to invent new technology to achieve our goals and that kind of thing costs money but that’s fine as long as the customer feels the value,” explains Dinnage. “If you get that narrative right and quantify the value of what you’re creating, customers will support it.”


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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.