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Five tips to grow your business sustainably

Written by Latifa Yedroudj on Wednesday, 24 November 2021. Posted in Insight, Analysis

SMEs can start their net-zero journey by making changes to their business operations early on

Five tips to grow your business sustainably

SMEs can start their net-zero journey by making changes to their business operations early on 

Under new Treasury rules, UK businesses must now show how they will achieve a goal of being net-zero by 2050. By 2023, firms will have to set out detailed public plans for how they will move to a low-carbon future. Businesses should adopt sustainability at the heart of their operations to lower carbon emissions and also continue eco-friendly practices that will reduce their carbon footprint. Here are five tips to help businesses pave their way towards a net-zero future. 

A survey by the British Business Bank last month revealed that small businesses account for around half (43-53%) of UK business greenhouse gas emissions. However, it also showed 94% of businesses questioned had taken at least one action to reduce their emissions. Business leaders can now learn sure-fire strategies to get them towards their net-zero target by 2050. The Help to Grow Management course has been created to help small and medium-sized businesses grow post-pandemic, with invaluable advice on how to reach new customers and boost profits while keeping sustainability at its core. Dr Lynn Oxborrow, Associate Professor in Management at Nottingham Business School and Programme Director of the Help to Grow: Management course at the school, said addressing the climate crisis will have not only to reduce carbon footprint but also have a ‘positive impact’ on business competitiveness. “Addressing the climate crisis is essential and everyone needs to do their bit,” Dr Lynn Oxborrow said. “SMEs can play a big role here, as introducing sustainable innovations and practices not only helps to reduce carbon emissions, it can also have a really positive impact on business competitiveness. This could include everything from cost savings and improved efficiency to winning new business, carving out a niche, and retaining employees – the benefits have a real impact on productivity and innovation for forward-thinking SMEs.” 

And to help businesses start their net-zero journey, Dr Oxborrow has shared five tips on business sustainability: 

Understand your carbon footprint and how making changes could benefit your business  

Could reducing energy, water use or waste reduce your costs? Or could adopting more sustainable products or services add value for your customers and help to engage your staff? Reflect on and rethink your energy use and where it comes from. Consider the energy used for machinery, lighting and heating but don’t forget what you use to cool your server, store data and send emails too. 

Adopt technologies that can help you to reduce your carbon footprint 

Using MS Teams, Zoom or a similar platform could mean fewer routine visits to customers. Sensors that switch off the lights when you leave could reduce your energy use. You could also use technology to monitor your carbon footprint and measure the improvements you make.  

Rethink your business values 

Look at how changes you make could reflect positively in your external and internal branding and communications. You need to be genuine and include the tangible things you’re doing to make a difference. Innovations in your product change to your supply chain, doing more with fewer resources need to be shared with staff, customers and stakeholders.  

Get your team onside 

Making a positive difference can have a beneficial effect on staff morale, wellbeing, motivation, staff retention and productivity. Getting everyone involved in making changes such as cycling to work, introducing a recycling scheme, reducing food waste in catering outlets, and turning down the heating, could make a big difference to the team and make sure your initiatives are a success.  

Plan for the long term and make your product or service more innovative 

Plan for carbon reduction, targeting the easiest, most accessible changes first, and then move onto longer-term actions that might require more knowledge and investment, but which could also have the biggest impact on your business and the environment. Introducing sustainable or recycled materials, and reducing packaging could cut materials usage, reduce logistics costs and create added customer interest. These innovations could help differentiate your business from your competitors. 

The Help to Grow: Management course is delivered by leading business schools from across the UK, targeting SMEs that employ between 5 to 248 employees. Business leaders can benefit from 50 hours of in-depth training, one-to-one business mentoring, and the opportunity to grow their business. To fit in with their busy schedules, business leaders can take part in sessions around existing work commitments and access learning through online and face-to-face sessions. The course covers financial management, strategies for growth and innovation, digital adoption and responsible business practices. It features inspirational business leaders and the opportunity to learn alongside local peers, with access to a national alumni network. 

Anne Kiem OBE, Executive Director, Small Business Charter and Chief Executive, Chartered Association of Business Schools, said: “Business schools support many thousands of small and medium-sized businesses to address pressing issues they face, including growing their businesses in sustainable ways. The expertise in the UK’s business schools is world-leading and based on real-life practice. All of the business schools delivering the Help to Grow: Management Course have been accredited by the Small Business Charter – an assessment led by small business leaders themselves.” 

The course is worth £7,110 per participant but is 90% subsidized by the government, meaning business leaders pay just £750 for tailored, high-quality business advice. The Help to Grow: Management course is open at business schools across the UK. To find out more visit gov.uk/helptogrow.

About the Author

Latifa Yedroudj

Latifa Yedroudj

Latifa Yedroudj has joined the Elite team to fully immerse herself in the business side of journalism, a strong passion of hers cultivated from young having co-run her mother's start up business since she was 18. Her interests lie in a wide range of subjects, including start ups, business, travel, and anything entrepreneurial she can get her hands on. She has worked for some of the biggest names in journalism including The Guardian and The Mirror. Follow her on @latifayed on Twitter for her latest journo rants.

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