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Why small businesses must embrace sustainability on the path to net zero

As the world increasingly turns its attention to the urgent need for sustainability, small businesses have an opportunity to lead the way.

4th July 2024

Not only can small businesses contribute to a healthier planet, but they can also gain a competitive edge by attracting an increasingly larger pool of eco-conscious customers.

More than eight in ten UK adults reported that they had made at least some changes to their lifestyle to help tackle environmental issues [1] and 76% of consumers say they intend to shop with businesses that offer environmentally products and services [2].

This Net Zero Week (6-12 July 2024), we are encouraging small businesses across Scotland to improve their sustainability and to learn more about why net zero is such a vital goal to reach.

Scotland plans to reach net zero by 2045, an ambitious target set by the Government which will bring big changes to the way people live and work.

Net zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. Achieving net zero means that a business’s operations do not contribute to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Some of the key benefits for small businesses working towards net zero are:

  • Reducing energy consumption and waste can significantly cut costs
  • Companies committed to sustainability are viewed more favourably by customers, helping their brand reputation
  • Staying ahead of regulations can prevent future legal and financial penalties

Today’s consumers are more environmentally conscious than ever before. Many are willing to pay a premium for products and services from businesses that demonstrate a genuine commitment to sustainability. By adopting green practices, small businesses can attract this growing customer base.

These practices are especially relevant for start-ups – by adopting sustainable practices from the offset, it puts these at the heart of your business and creates good habits from the beginning.

Early adopters of sustainable practices can distinguish themselves in the marketplace. Being known as a green business can help attract new customers and retain existing ones.

Governments worldwide are introducing stricter environmental regulations. By proactively adopting sustainable practices, small businesses can ensure compliance and avoid future costs associated with meeting new regulations.

Some initial steps small businesses can take include:

  • Conducting an environmental assessment to understand your current environmental impact by doing a thorough assessment and identifying areas where you can reduce emissions and waste.
  • Setting clear, realistic goals for reducing your carbon footprint. This could include targets for energy use, waste reduction, and sourcing sustainable materials.
  • Improving energy efficiency by making simple changes like switching to LED lighting, optimising heating and cooling systems, and investing in energy-efficient equipment, all of which can significantly reduce energy consumption.
  • Implementing sustainable supply chain practices through work with suppliers who prioritise sustainability. This can help reduce the overall environmental impact of your products and services.
  • Enhancing waste management by implementing incentives to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
  • Implementing strategies to minimise waste production and improve recycling efforts.

We have compiled a list of resources to help small businesses in Scotland to expand their knowledge on sustainable practices and how to begin working on these, including advice on making your website more sustainable, developing a business plan with net zero in mind and signposting to key partners. This can be found here.

The time to act is now. Small steps today can lead to significant impacts tomorrow. Start your journey towards net zero with our support. Contact your local office to learn how we can help you make sustainable changes and achieve your environmental goals.

[1] Most adults report making some changes to their lifestyle for environmental reasons
[2] Over 70% of consumers to shop more with greener retailers