Tools to help SMEs take climate action
Small and medium sized businesses can access tools and resources to help them meet environment targets through the SME Climate Hub. From making a public pledge to become net-zero to accessing carbon reporting tools, we look at what support is available and how they have helped small companies
The SME Climate Hub is a global initiative that aims to support and help small to medium sized businesses take environmental action and eliminate their harmful emissions through all areas of their business, including vehicle operations and business travel.
The first step is to make a public commitment to halve emissions by 2030 and to become net zero by 2050 or sooner. And to help achieve this, the SME Climate Hub has developed free, practical resources specifically tailored to support SMEs on their net zero journey. Businesses can calculate their emissions with the Business Carbon Calculator, learn how to take action with the Climate Fit education course and access support through the Financial Support guide and 1.5°C Business Playbook.
The SME Climate Hub has also partnered with Oxford University to provide SMEs with a library of external tools that offer additional support to small businesses taking concrete steps towards climate action.
The SME Climate Hub is an initiative founded by the We Mean Business Coalition, Exponential Roadmap Initiative and the United Nations Race to Zero campaign in collaboration with Oxford University and Normative. The SME Climate Commitment is the official pathway for small and medium sized businesses to join the United Nations global Race to Zero campaign.
Barriers to overcome
The SME Climate Hub’s second annual study has revealed that the majority of SMEs want to create a better future for their business and for the planet and are taking an increasingly proactive approach in tackling the climate emergency. Despite 77 per cent not being asked to reduce emissions by customers, 80 per cent are taking climate action as it is the right thing to do. However, substantial barriers remain.
The survey found that finance is a major hurdle with 70 per cent of respondents needing funds to take action or speed up progress of their emissions reduction efforts. However, 47 per cent of SME leaders surveyed estimated they would need up to £80,000 to achieve net-zero.
Lack of climate skills and knowledge is preventing 58 per cent of respondents from taking more ambitious action on climate, likely due to SMEs having inherently smaller teams, with greater time constraints.
Measurement and monitoring tools encourage business to take greater climate action according to 61 per cent of respondents.
Business benefits of climate action were highlighted as a key reason to act with 65 per cent of respondents saying they believed this differentiated their business from competitors, whilst 73 per cent took action to enhance the reputation of their business.
Climate action is gaining momentum within the SME community with three in five respondents reporting having encouraged other businesses to make the SME Climate Commitment.
Pamela Jouven, director of the SME Climate Hub said “Despite their collective impact on communities and economies, small businesses are often amongst the most vulnerable to change and disruption. Rising global temperatures and weather-related disasters particularly impact SMEs given their localised supply chains, centralised infrastructure, and dependence on the communities in which they operate. At the same time, SMEs have been the least equipped to mitigate their role in the climate crisis. Small businesses are facing greater risk while also potentially missing out on the benefits of building more resilient businesses and cutting costs.”
Monitoring and reporting
Measuring and reporting emissions is often the start of the journey for any company that aspires to be a leader on climate action. By evaluating their current emissions, companies can understand where they are causing the most harm, including hotspots like business travel, emissions from heating or electricity and those that arise from transport and shipping. Reporting is also one of the largest drivers towards action, as governments, investors and corporate customers move towards more stringent regulations and expectations.
As such, the SME Climate Hub has developed a new reporting tool which seeks to address this challenge. The tool has been specifically designed for SMEs and enables businesses to easily report annual greenhouse gas emissions, the actions they’ve taken to reduce emissions, and the impact of their efforts. The tool is based on the SME Climate Disclosure Framework, developed by the CDP, the Exponential Roadmap Initiative and Normative.
Climate Fit is a free online training course to help SMEs understand what they need to do to reduce their carbon emissions and achieve net zero. It covers governance and strategy, operations, supply chain, design, finance, communities and storytelling.
Kuli Kuli, a US-based food and beverage brand, benefitted from the Climate Fit online course. The company learned through its emissions inventory that plastic packaging, more so than transport, was a key emissions hotspot. Since then, Kuli Kuli switched to using 50 per cent post-consumer recycled material for a key product line and, as a result, has saved an estimated 450 gallons of gasoline and diverted the equivalent of 100,000 plastic bottles from landfill.
Learning from others
Forster Communications, a UK-based PR firm, joined the SME Climate Hub in 2020 and has benefitted from its resources to implement its Climate Transition Action Plan. The company’s three-year roadmap set the goal of cutting operational carbon emissions from its travel, finance, and office operations, as well as transitioning to suppliers with clear net zero plans and helping hybrid-work employees cut emissions at home and on their commutes. As a result, the firm reduced its CO2 emissions by 4.1 tons during this period.
For its transport, the business enables and encourages sustainable transport, with cycle training offered to colleagues and associates quarterly. They also offer extra holiday time for those who cycle or walk to work. The company also plans to extend its sustainable travel plan to include EV leasing.
Working from home has been made greener with 80 per cent of the team using renewable energy at home.
All of the company’s suppliers have now made net-zero pledges, 90 per cent of their business-sector clients have set greenhouse gas reduction targets, and the firm has collectively reduced 4.1 tons of CO2 scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. The agency evolved who they offset emissions with by working with accredited providers who directly remove carbon. And, when they realised the vast majority of emissions came from pensions and banking, they changed banks and moved investments. As its capacity grows, the company aims to go further by reducing scope 1 & 2 emissions to minimise the need for offsetting.
As a result of their sustainability framework for suppliers, their office landlords changed waste suppliers, and now no waste from any of the building’s businesses goes to landfill.
Clients too have been encouraged to make greener choices; such as choosing trains over flights for business travel.
Commenting on the company’s Climate Transition Action Plan, chief executive Amanda Powell-Smith said: “By normalising [climate action] through our work, it sparks wider conversations within our organisations and among peers. It helps nudge them in the direction of more sustainable travel choices.
“This shows the ripple effect of taking small, planet-minded steps – and the power that small- and medium-sized enterprises have to spark change in their own networks. We should never underestimate SMEs as the trailblazers of change. They are often more agile than larger organisations, trialing new ways of working and responding quickly to challenges.”