Planet Mark, a leading sustainability certification firm, and Amazon call for the urgent creation of a government-backed Net Zero Resource Hub for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to help them access funding and advice on how to become more sustainable.
The hub would be part of a nationwide campaign to raise awareness across industry, government and the SME community about the crucial role smaller firms can play in decarbonising the economy. It would include clear and searchable guidance on net-zero so small businesses can act quickly, and influence policy or legislation which would directly or indirectly affect them and provide access to financing to support their transition to net-zero.
With Planet Mark we want to help small and medium-sized enterprises overcome and understand some of the barriers they face in their net-zero journeys, including better access to information and a clearer roadmap for progress.
The call comes as part of a new report published today, Recommendations for Supporting Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) on the Road to Net Zero, which follows the government-commissioned Net Zero Review, reflecting the feedback from the leaders from over 40 SMEs, academics, independent consultants and industry bodies, who joined a series of roundtables recently hosted by Planet Mark and the Amazon Small Business Accelerator in Bristol, Cambridge and Manchester.
“We remain laser focused on reaching net-zero carbon by 2040 across our business,” said John Boumphrey, UK Country Manager, Amazon. “But we also have an opportunity and responsibility to lead by example, and encourage partners, such as the small business community – many of who sell on Amazon, or use our products and services – to address the climate crisis and solve the challenges of decarbonising our economy. With Planet Mark we want to help small and medium-sized enterprises overcome and understand some of the barriers they face in their net-zero journeys, including better access to information and a clearer roadmap for progress.”
Around 4.5 million UK SMEs do not have net-zero targets in place, but these events set out to help SMEs understand the opportunities and challenges around sustainable packaging, digitisation, technology and manufacturing. The businesses that took part said that they face many barriers on their journey to net-zero, including a lack of finance and education on the importance of transitioning. Breaking down carbon jargon and providing simple steps to practical action is therefore essential to empower these firms to first commit to net-zero and start making credible progress on decarbonisation.
“I welcome the report published today by Planet Mark and the Amazon Small Business Accelerator, highlighting the urgent need for SMEs – 99 percent of our businesses in the UK – to be better supported in their transition to net-zero,” said Jane Hunt MP, Chair of the All Party Group for Small Businesses. “Government and big business have pivotal roles to play in ensuring that the regulatory environment, tools and resources are enabling for businesses of all sizes to decarbonise across their operations.”
Keep reading to find out more about the key findings from the report, Recommendations for Supporting Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) on the Road to Net Zero:
A voice in net-zero policy
SMEs require a voice in net-zero policy development which directly or indirectly affect them and the supply chains they are part of. Giving smaller firms more of a voice would offer them more control in how they comply with measurement or governance requirements related to net-zero. The report also calls for these types of policies to be well-coordinated at regional and national levels to avoid confusion and reduce compliance complexity.
A roadmap for progress
Clear timelines are needed for the development of SME emissions measurement requirements. Businesses would benefit from a clear plan on when SMEs would be required to report a minimum threshold of emission scopes – helping SMEs to prepare, as well as aiding larger businesses to plan their own net-zero strategies and targets. Barriers to measurement also need to be removed, for example, making it mandatory for commercial landlords to share energy, water and waste data with tenants to allow them to calculate emissions and create reduction plans.
Looking at funding, Planet Mark and Amazon call for net-zero regulation to be paired with financial incentives for SMEs. This would help businesses plan ahead, accelerate the deployment of low-carbon solutions and properly assess their upfront financing and resourcing needs and could be funded through green tax incentives. Funding should be made more easily available for innovative low-carbon products and services. For example, if a funded pilot project is successful, bridge-funding from both private and public sources is necessary to help these ideas scale commercially.
Partnering for impact
Large organisations have an important role to play in supporting SMEs in their supply chains on their own decarbonisation journeys, and can better support smaller firms through provision of knowledge, financial support and guidance.
“There are nearly six million SMEs in the UK, making up 99 percent of all businesses. To reach net-zero by 2050 and limit global warming to 1.5°C, it is critical that small businesses are committed to climate action and taking bold steps to reduce their emissions,” said Steve Malkin, CEO of Planet Mark.
“We are optimistic the UK government will grasp this opportunity following the recent publication of its long-awaited Net Zero Review, which acknowledged that the country’s small businesses need specific advice and guidance so they can better understand and contribute to the climate transition. We have long been calling for the UK government to ensure that SMEs, which are the backbone of our economy, are given the tools to prepare for net-zero today, so they aren’t left behind in the years ahead.
“This is why we teamed up with Amazon to run these events, which have allowed us and the Amazon Small Business Accelerator to work closely with smaller firms to demystify net-zero and to come up with specific asks to help SMEs on their net-zero journey. Planet Mark has supported many SMEs to embrace sustainability and cut carbon. By working with Amazon, we look forward to helping thousands more small businesses thrive while also making a difference in our fight against climate change.”
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