If the roadmap of lifting all restrictions on the 21st goes to plan, June will be a historic milestone for the nation. For small businesses that have lived through one of the most challenging periods on record it will signal fresh optimism and progress.
Recovery conversations are already starting. Experts are predicting an unprecedented period of dynamism and growth – a new ‘roaring twenties’ for our century. A massive £62.7 billion spending boom is predicted in the UK across the next six months according to Smart Energy GB.
As well as benefiting from this consumer demand, small businesses will undoubtedly be at the heart of driving recovery – producing the employment, output and innovation to power the UK through to better times.
However, they will also be central to ensuring this growth is sustainable, clean and environmentally conscious.
With the world on deadline against another crisis ‘ climate change – June 2021 will hopefully also be remembered as a seminal step-forward on this issue too, as we host the G7 summit and fire the opening shot towards the COP26 Summit in November.
I’ve spoken before about how Covid-19 has built the character, resilience and coping skills of small businesses. While on one hand many business owners are exhausted and still processing the events they have lived through, it has also ignited a new fight in them that will live on long past this crisis.
Research we undertook with BT Skills For Tomorrow backs this up, showing that Covid-19 has increased the priority that small firms give to sustainability, and boosted the action they take.
Virtually all the small firms we surveyed (99%) are now convinced of the importance of sustainability, with almost half (47%) now seeing this issue as more important than before the pandemic began.
An overwhelming majority (68%) of small firms would like to commit to going net zero by 2050. This is good news for the UK Government’s new campaign – ‘Together for our Planet’ ‘ which aims to encourage small businesses to pledge to cut their emissions to net zero by 2050 or sooner.
Despite the enthusiasm for this, over three quarters of small firms say they need help to do this, so there is clearly a need for a lot of support over the years ahead.
However, the pandemic has certainly propelled many small firms in this direction, particularly as many upgraded their digital skills and technology to cope with the expected influx of customers, and made improvements that enhance sustainability and save costs. Whether that’s shops going cashless, pubs offering pints through an app or restaurants installing a smart meter to improve their energy usage and only pay for the energy they use.
We see this drive at the heart not just of firms that have been around for some time, but in the roots of the new wave of new digital-first start-ups, born in the pandemic.
For example, food shortages in March 2020 prompted Herefordshire’s Hamish Light into an early launch of his new e-commerce start-up, which brings the finest independent suppliers from across his county conveniently into home all over the UK.
Sustainability has been wired into Local e Sourced from the get-go, so much so that we awarded it the inaugural national ‘Net Hero’ Small Award, particularly for its unique move of storing stock from its suppliers in its own warehouse, to reduce packaging waste and transportation emissions. Local-e-Sourced also thoughtfully utilises compostable WoolCool thermal insulation and recyclable packaging, as well as two courier services – one to reach areas outside of Herefordshire, and a bicycle courier within the county.
Businesses like Hamish’s are inspiring and amazing, but they are also thankfully no longer the exception, with environmental consciousness increasingly a foundation for many business owners.
While the global covid-19 crisis is far from over, and the real-world impact of climate change continues unabated, June will hopefully be a positive month. One where we can move forward, tackling important issues with fresh energy and starting to make some important progress towards lasting recovery.
The roaring twenties might be upon us, but let’s make sure it is not founded on hot air. Igniting the passion for environmentalism that small businesses genuinely have and giving them support to turn this into a sustainable recovery can flourish and benefit us all.