The climate crisis is an urgent issue for everyone.
The UK government has set an ambitious target to reach net-zero by 2050 and all businesses of all sizes need to play a part if we’re to reach those goals. This is not just about doing the right thing — today’s consumers expect action: according to research from Edelman, 80% of people want brands to solve society’s problems.
Small businesses make up 99% of the UK’s business community so they’ll play a crucial role in reaching net zero. Yet, understandably, small businesses don’t always have the time, resources, or expertise to dedicate to this — especially as they focus on recovery from the pandemic. A study from the British Chambers of Commerce and O2 found that only one in 10 small businesses are measuring their carbon footprint, and a fifth of small businesses don’t fully understand the term “net-zero”. Cost, and an ability to understand, measure, and report emissions are cited as two of the main barriers to change.
Sustainability training for small businesses
To help small businesses overcome these obstacles, Google has announced a new free, simple, and actionable training programme to help SMEs reduce their emissions. They developed the training in partnership with leading sustainability and net-zero certification group, Planet Mark, as part of the UK Government’s Together for our Planet Business Climate Leaders campaign, which encourages small businesses to commit to cutting their emissions in half by 2030 and to net-zero by 2050.
Their training is designed for small businesses starting their journey towards sustainability, with an emphasis on how a sustainability strategy can help drive business performance. It sets out the business case and imperative for cutting emissions and explains practical, digitally-focused ways to decarbonize — from using paperless billing and Cloud-enabled technology, to renewable energy sourcing and supply chains. Since they know how much consumers care about this, it also covers how small businesses can use their sustainability credentials to differentiate.
One business already doing this successfully is catering company, Fooditude. They made tangible changes to their business, like limiting their food waste, going paperless with admin systems and swapping to local suppliers, and reduced their emissions by over 30% per meal. Dean Kennett, Fooditude’s Managing Director, attributes £3 million in new revenue to their new sustainability credentials, as well as their ability to hire staff who share their values, and a shared purpose among employees.
They’ll deliver the training through the Google Digital Garage, building on their experience of coaching more than 650,000 people and small businesses in the UK in digital and business skills. And they’ll lean on their expertise as leaders on climate change for over two decades, from becoming carbon neutral in 2007 to their latest and most ambitious commitment to become the first major company to operate on carbon-free energy 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
They’re encouraging companies who complete the training to make a commitment to going net-zero by signing up to the SME Climate Commitment, which can be found on the UK Business Climate Hub. Businesses who sign up and share their commitments will be recognized by the United Nations Race to Zero campaign initiative and inspire other businesses to take action.
Helping SMEs track carbon emissions
Measuring carbon emissions accurately is essential if small businesses are to know if their actions make a difference, but most small businesses can’t do this alone. That’s why they’re supporting Normative, the software platform behind the SME Climate Commitment, to help businesses track and account for their carbon emissions, making climate mitigation easier and actionable. Over the next six months, as part of the Google.org Fellowship, they’ll provide a team of 11 Googlers to work full-time, pro bono, to assist Normative with building the technical infrastructure that underpins the free-to-access platform. Normative was one of the organisations to receive a €1M grant through the Google.org Impact Challenge on Climate, which funds bold ideas that aim to use technology to accelerate Europe’s progress toward a greener, more resilient future.
They’re optimistic that by supporting organisations and technologies like these they can help small businesses make the journey towards a carbon-free future.