Dominating headlines in recent weeks, a UN scientific report described its findings on climate change as “code red for humanity” – a stark wakeup call for the world. Combined with the reality of increasing extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding across the globe, there is no denying the importance of this topic. The timely report comes ahead of political leaders from around the world meeting at the COP26 global climate summit in November, with the world watching closely to understand how we collectively tackle this enormous issue.
The UK government has set a target to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, and it’s clear we need to work together to take collective action to reach this target. This applies to us as individuals, as well as the pressing responsibility that businesses have, both large and small. At BT, we’ve pledged to be a net zero emissions business by 2045, and with around two thirds of our end to end carbon emissions coming from our supply chain, we’re committed to working with our suppliers to reduce our supply chain emissions by 42% by the end of March 2031.
I believe large businesses, such as BT, should help to lead the way to support small businesses on their net zero journey. For example, through influencing our own supply chains or by actively sharing best practice. Representing approximately 5.9 million small businesses in the UK and accounting for 99.9% of the business population, small firms have a key role to play.
Simple steps you can take to start addressing climate action in your business
A survey by BT and Small Business Britain has found that the global pandemic has prompted almost half (47%) of small firms to give sustainability higher priority. However, three quarters (77%) of small businesses don’t know how to measure carbon emissions, with 73% of small firms keen for more training and education to understand what changes they could make to their business.
Here are some simple steps that you can take to start taking climate change actions in your own business to help it thrive over the long term:
1. Start measuring your carbon footprint
Measuring your carbon emissions means measuring the carbon impact of your own business operations, such as your electricity consumption or vehicle emissions. It can also be valuable to include your ‘value chain footprint’ which covers other indirect emissions, such as purchased goods or services. There are free tools available to help you measure the carbon footprint of your business. For example, a good place to start is this newly published guide from the Carbon Trust. BT and the Carbon Trust also recently collaborated on a helpful free webinar on the topic, you can watch back the webinar back here.
2. Understand energy audits
Undertaking and understanding an energy audit can help your business to drive both energy and capital savings. For example, it could be that by looking into your energy savings you could highlight simple savings such as LED light upgrades or using solar methods for renewable energy generation. The architect firm Sheppard Robson recently worked with the Carbon Trust to carry out an energy audit on their business, highlighting a potential 32% energy saving, read more in this case study.
You can watch back this free webinar from BT and the Carbon trust on how to get started with energy auditing.
3. Set your own net zero targets and build them into your business plan
To help small businesses across the UK to set net zero targets, at BT we’re encouraging companies to sign up to the SME climate commitment. This is supported by the Government’s UK Business Climate Hub which is an initiative designed to provide guidance on how small businesses can set net zero targets, measure their emissions and develop climate strategies. The Hub also provides tips around how to reduce emissions in operations and across the value chain.
4. Influence and change behaviour within your business
Building your net zero targets into your business plan and clearly explaining how you’ll reach them will be key to changing behaviour within your business. Carrying out an energy audit will also help build your business case for change, often highlighting both energy and capital savings. Similarly, getting your employees on board with your strategy will make a real difference. You could consider communicating simple ideas for your own colleagues to take their own action on climate change. For example, at BT we called on our colleagues to take part in #ClimateChangeResolutions, a call to action where we're asking our employees to consider what small but impactful actions they can take to reduce their carbon footprint. This heightened awareness of the simple actions everyone can take such as switching to a renewable energy provider/ tariff or turning the thermostat down one degree. Engaging your teams this way can help them to understand the potential positive impact they can have.
2021 must be a year of action, and in the run up to COP26 this November, I hope businesses up and down the country will feel inspired to take action on climate change. This has to be a collective effort across the entire business community. Come and join us in the Race to Zero!
Find out more about the free support and training available to SMEs from BT.
BT will speak at the CBI’s SME webinar on Net Zero on 9 September, sign up here.