South West SMEs 'not yet prepared' for net zero challenge

FSB’s national chairman Mike Cherry say small businesses need support to help them achieve sustainability ambitions

FSB’s national chairman Mike Cherry say small businesses need support to help them achieve sustainability ambitions - Credit: FSB

Two-thirds of small businesses in the South West do not currently have an active plan to reduce their impact on the environment according to the latest report by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). 

The FSB has issued a major national report to coincide with the COP26 conference on how SMEs are preparing to deal with the challenge of dealing with net zero and sustainability. The regional figures reveal that although the majority of South West SMEs accept the planet is facing a climate crisis many feel they need more support and grant funding to be able to play their part in helping their business to deal with it. 

Over 60 per cent of small businesses in the region say that grants or low interest loans to help install energy efficiency measures would encourage them to make changes and nearly four in ten say a reduction in their tax bill would also be a key factor to help get moving on a net zero path. 

Despite not many businesses having a plan to reduce their carbon impact, the majority of businesses surveyed are already taking active steps to make their business more energy efficient and improved recycling and waste management measures are increasingly popular with SMEs. However, green transport issues are seen as more of a problem. The costs of electric vehicles are seen as a ‘barrier to change’ by more than half of survey respondents and only 10 per cent of South West businesses said they had installed a workplace charging point for EVs. 

In the report – entitled Accelerating Progress and available to download at https://www.fsb.org.uk/resource-report/accelerating-progress.html – the FSB, who are Britain’s biggest business representation group, have made a number of recommendations to try to help SMEs on their net zero journey, including asking Government to: 

· Launch a ‘Help to Green’ initiative encompassing £5,000 vouchers that businesses could spend on environmental products and services. 

· Introduce a scrappage scheme through which diesel commercial vehicles could be recycled in exchange for grants that could be put towards cleaner hybrids and ZEVs. 

· Work with Ofgem to establish a taskforce of suppliers, small business landlords and business groups to agree how to cut energy use in rented premises. 

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· Lower the capital requirements banks must adhere to when lending to businesses for green improvements. 

· Set out target-based infrastructure strategies to deliver necessary ZEV charging infrastructure by 2030. 

Reflecting on the wide-ranging report, FSB National Chair Mike Cherry said: “Adopting sustainable practices on the journey to net zero is everyone’s duty. 

“Small businesses are keen to play their part, but often don’t have the resources, deep pockets and dedicated specialists enjoyed by their larger counterparts, so can find identifying and taking the necessary steps a challenge. 

“There’s no shortage of enthusiasm among small firms to reduce their impact on the environment, and the Government should take note – our report sets out a range of comprehensive recommendations which, if taken forward, will equip our 5.6 million small business owners with the tools they need to build a more sustainable future.”

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