Free sustainability course to help small firms reach net zero

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Date: 1 March 2022

A woman works in her zero packaging shop

A new sustainability skills programme designed for UK small businesses has been launched by Small Business Britain and Oxford Brookes Business School.

The Small Business Sustainability Basics programme is a free, six-week, online course delivered by Small Business Britain in partnership with Oxford Brookes Business School and leading sustainability experts. It aims to increase awareness about sustainability and carbon net zero, as well as providing practical guidance to help SMEs realise green growth opportunities.

Research conducted jointly by Small Business Britain and Oxford Brookes has found that there is a "huge appetite" among small businesses to reduce carbon emissions, with 71% of those polled saying they want to do more in the next two years to reduce carbon emissions.

However, the findings also show that a number of key barriers are stopping many small firms from taking action; 41% say that access to finance is a limiting factor, while 30% are concerned about the time commitment.

"Last year COP26 placed a much-needed spotlight on the vital role small businesses can play in the race to net zero, and it's important that the energy generated by this carries momentum," said Michelle Ovens, founder of Small Business Britain.

"There is huge passion amongst the UK's entrepreneurs to take action against climate change. Many are already taking important steps and placing sustainability at the heart of their businesses, becoming increasingly mission-driven on this issue. But their collective impact could be so much greater with more support, encouragement and guidance. Our new programme is designed to supercharge the sustainability skills of the nation's entrepreneurs and provide a key foundation to build from."

The research also shows that small businesses need greater clarity and guidance on how to reach net zero - 12% of business owners said they are not aware of the government's net zero targets and 42% don't understand what is required of them. A further 24% of businesses are not doing anything to lower their carbon emissions, but would like to do more.

"With small firms representing 99% of UK businesses and half of the UK's business-driven emissions, according to the British Business Bank, small businesses can play a major role in helping the UK meet its target of reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2050," said Professor Tim Vorley, pro vice-chancellor and dean of Oxford Brookes Business School.

"There are also major benefits for small businesses too, from strengthening resilience and reducing costs, to engaging new customers. Our research shows that small businesses see the opportunity here but perceive cost and time to be barriers, so it's important they are supported on this journey. This free, short course is designed to overcome these challenges, and help entrepreneurs to get started and grow their confidence."

The Small Business Sustainability Basics scheme will run from March to May this year, providing guidance across a range of sustainability areas from energy use and transport, to supply chain and offsetting. It is open to all small businesses and will feature experts including Ciaran Armstrong, co-founder of Sustainable Pathways and Adam Bastock, founder of Small99.

Written by Rachel Miller.

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