Sustainability skills programme for small businesses launched in wake of COP26

Sustainability skills programme for small businesses launched in wake of COP26

A new sustainability skills programme to help small firms realise their growing climate action ambitions is being launched following the COP26 summit.

Small Business Britain and Oxford Brookes Business School have developed the new programme, after their joint research showed a huge appetite among small businesses to reduce carbon emissions, but that key barriers are preventing many from taking action.

The research pointed to a high level of sustainability consciousness among entrepreneurs, with 71 per cent saying they want to do more in the next two years to reduce carbon emissions. Yet 41 per cent feel access to finance limits them, while 30% are concerned about the time commitment.

The new ‘Small Business Sustainability Basics programme’ is a free, online, six-week short course delivered in partnership with Oxford Brookes Business School and leading sustainability experts. It aims to increase the awareness of small business owners about sustainability and net zero, as well as providing practical insights to realise green growth opportunities.

“Last year COP26 placed a much-needed spotlight on the vital role small businesses can play in the race to net zero, and it’s important that the energy generated by this carries momentum,” said Michelle Ovens CBE, founder of Small Business Britain.

“There is huge passion amongst the UK’s entrepreneurs to take action against climate change. Many are already taking important steps and placing sustainability at the heart of their businesses, becoming increasingly mission driven on this issue. But their collective impact could be so much greater with more support, encouragement, and guidance.

“Our new programme is designed to supercharge the sustainability skills of the nation’s entrepreneurs, and provide a key foundation to build from.”

The research also showed that the road to net zero is something that small businesses need greater clarity and guidance on. 12% of business owners said they are not aware of the government’s net zero targets and 42% don’t understand what is required. A further 24% of businesses are not doing anything to lower their carbon emissions, but would like to do more.

“With small firms representing 99 per cent of UK business and half of the UK’s business driven emissions, according to the British Business Bank, small businesses can play a major role in helping the UK meet its target of reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2050,” said Professor Tim Vorley, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Oxford Brookes Business School.

“There are also major benefits for small businesses too, from strengthening resilience and reducing costs, to engaging new customers. Our research shows that small businesses see the opportunity here but perceive cost and time to be barriers, so it’s important they are supported on this journey. This free, short course is designed to overcome these challenges, and help entrepreneurs to get started and grow their confidence.”

The Small Business Sustainability Basics scheme will run from March to May this year, providing guidance across a whole range of sustainability areas from energy use and transport, to supply chain and offsetting.

It is open to all small businesses to take part and will feature experts including Ciaran Armstrong, Co-Founder of Sustainable Pathways and Adam Bastock, Founder of Small99.

The team at Oxford Brookes Business School comprises Dr Sara le Roux, Dr Lauren Tuckerman and Professor Tim Vorley who are leading on the research and delivery of the Sustainability Basics programme.