We must empower all SMEs to accelerate a carbon free future

We must empower all SMEs to accelerate a carbon free future

Will Richardson, Founder and CEO, Compare Your Footprint

We all stand to benefit from a carbon free future – which will mean cleaner air, a more sustainable planet, and thriving businesses and communities. So the Government’s ambitious new commitment to cut carbon emissions faster than any other major economy in the next decade is certainly welcome.

Businesses will be critical in helping to achieve this aim – and all SMEs need to be equipped with the right information and tools to play their part. Wherever businesses are on their carbon journey, we must ensure that no company is left behind.  

With carbon targets high on the agenda for many policymakers, businesses, consumers, and employees alike, the time is now for all SMEs to ensure they really understand their role – and how to do more.

Boris Johnson recently announced the new UK target of at least a 68% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2030, compared to 1990 levels. This new target provides a clear and long-term signal for businesses of all sizes that greater action on carbon is needed.

Many companies are rightly taking their commitment to combating climate change more seriously than ever, with a whole range of big businesses pledging to become ‘net zero’.

But not all organisations are at the same stage of their journey – and we can’t expect smaller businesses to have all the answers. We need to demystify carbon measurement and make it really simple and straightforward for companies of all sizes to understand what they can do.

That’s where organisations like Compare Your Footprint come in. We support SMEs by helping businesses to feel confident about the practical steps they can take. The first and most fundamental step for every business is to measure their carbon footprint. The adage that ‘What gets measured gets managed’ couldn’t be truer for carbon.

Only by understanding your emissions can you work out where you can make reductions in the best way. Crucially, businesses need to map their emissions across different sources:

Scope 1 all direct emissions from the activities of an organisation, or those under their control – including gas boilers, vehicles and air-conditioning.

Scope 2 indirect emissions from electricity purchased and used by the organisation.

Scope 3 – all other indirect emissions, caused by sources that the organisation do not own or control; these are usually the greatest share of the carbon footprint, covering business travel, procurement, waste and water.

Once a business has a clear grasp on the sources of their emissions, there are various simple steps they can take to cut them – from changing office lighting and printing less paper to re-thinking how employees travel.

Cutting carbon emissions isn’t just the right thing to do for people and planet – it also has vital commercial and competitive benefits. Carbon reduction improves companies’ sustainability credentials and minimises the cost of emissions.

And making a positive difference for the planet has been shown to boost companies’ profitability, improve investor confidence, enhance reputation, attract and retain talent, and increase business resilience. In a recent survey of business leaders, 40% said their employees were leaving because of dissatisfaction with their companies’ climate impact – it’s clear that there is increased demand for action.

The reality is that carbon commitments aren’t a ‘nice to have’. Companies that don’t have clear targets and procedures in place to measure and reduce their carbon footprint will miss out as the UK transitions to a carbon free future.

Businesses who don’t put sustainability at their core will fall behind. This will be particularly true as increasing legislation comes into play. Indeed, requirements such as Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting mean that larger UK companies are required to report publicly on their UK energy use and carbon emissions within their Directors’ Report.

With ESG investing rising up the agenda and the UK preparing to host the major UN climate conference COP 26 in November 2021, carbon cutting is only going to increase in prominence. All SMEs need to ensure they are well placed to thrive as the UK commits to a carbon free future. 

Susannah Griffin
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