As Britain slowly emerges from lockdown, most companies are focused on returning to business as usual – or as close as they can possibly get to it. Does that include sustainability, carbon emissions and the environment?
Of course they’re still on your radar, but maybe not a priority right now. Yet perhaps they should be.
Mark Nelson, Business Engagement Officer, MaCaW Project at University of Central Lancashire explains a number of reasons why.
1. Cut costs
At a time when finances are more stretched than ever, the opportunity to save money is one no business can afford to pass up.
MaCaW offers its support to Lancashire SMEs for free. We’ll help you lower your carbon footprint in a range of ways. Many of our recommendations will be low or no-cost, so you save money on energy with minimal investment.
And where larger investment could deliver even greater efficiencies, we’ll match it with a grant of up to £15,000.
To date, our support has saved local businesses an average of £7,242 each. In the current climate, that’s a figure to make any business sit up and take notice.
2. Improve efficiency
Our approach to lowering your carbon footprint has always been about finding more ways to make it pay. With many of the businesses we work with, switching to a low carbon operation presents a great opportunity to find new process efficiencies.
Energy efficiency isn’t always – and never just – a matter of buying new, more efficient machinery. It’s also a question of reengineering the production process to remove carbon from it. The intention is always to deliver the same result, quicker, using less energy. As we leave lockdown, that could be a valuable exercise for every business.
3. Win more tenders
More than ever, tendering comes with an expectation of sustainability attached. For many SMEs looking to work with larger partners, the ability to show meaningful action to reduce your carbon footprint is a challenge, and one that can make it difficult to reach the latter stages of tendering exercises against organisations with well-honed carbon-reduction processes.
Yet MaCaW makes it easy to show how you report on – and are working to reduce – your carbon footprint, helping to put you on a level playing field with larger competitors, and giving you an edge over your peers.
4. Ethics matter
The 17% drop in global carbon emissions during the pandemic hasn’t gone unnoticed. We’ve all enjoyed the cleaner air, the quieter streets, the return of wildlife. Coronavirus hasn’t suddenly put climate change on the radar, but it has made everyone realise that major change can be achieved swiftly.
For business, the choice is clear: get on board and support the change or drift back to business as usual. Covid-19 is an “opportunity to build a new low carbon way of working”, Christiana Figueres, head of the UN climate change convention that achieved the Paris agreement in 2015, told The Guardian recently.
Yet it’s not simply a question of ethics. “Companies with strong profiles on material sustainability issues have potential to outperform those with poor profiles,” reported asset management bellwether BlackRock recently. Or, as Forbes put it: “Businesses must do good to do well.”
5. Time to get it right
Of course, opportunity is one thing. Lots of businesses want to do good – they simply don’t have the time to make it happen. Here too the pandemic may, in a strange way, have created the space you need.
Every business is looking again at processes to protect staff and customers. There’s a great opportunity to make carbon reduction part of that process, addressing both issues together to save time and money.
Mark Nelson is the Business Engagement Officer on the Making Carbon Work (MaCaW) Project which aims to reduce the carbon footprint of SMEs across Lancashire by providing expert support and grant funding for low carbon technology.
MaCaW is a University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) project, an industry and academic collaboration funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and supported by Boost; Lancashire’s business growth hub.