New UK climate hub to support SMEs with the green transition

Tue 15 Aug 2023
Posted by: Richard Cree
Trade News

Net Zero logo surrounded by images of green energy symbols

The government yesterday (14 August) announced a new “one-stop shop” for small businesses looking for support on how to reduce carbon emissions.

The UK Business Climate Hub is a collaboration between government, businesses and industry groups, which will be the UK partner to the SME Climate Hub – a global initiative set up in 2020 to empower SMEs to take climate action.

Research published last year by Sage and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) revealed that SMEs generate 44% of the UK’s non-household greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But, despite a desire to be greener, 90% felt restrained by obstacles ranging from cash flow to difficulty finding the right solutions.

Focus on cost-saving benefits

The same research found that reducing costs was seen as the biggest potential benefit of becoming greener. The messaging on the new UK Business Climate Hub is focused on helping SMEs reduce energy use, and thus save money, at a time when many are suffering from the impact of inflation and the higher cost of doing business, in part caused by major bumps in energy costs.

Launching the new hub, minister of state for energy security and net zero, Graham Stuart, said:

“More businesses are recognising the business benefits of reaching net zero and we’re determined to empower them to do so. The new UK Business Climate Hub is a one-stop-shop for businesses to find practical advice to reduce their carbon footprint and save on their energy bills.”

The new hub offers practical tips and guidance across eight areas ranging from building and home energy use, to electric vehicles and transport, to supply chain and product labels and certifications.

Sector-specific roadmaps

The hub has been endorsed by the new Net Zero Council, a body created earlier this year to bring together senior business leaders with policymakers and government. It has developed a business roadmap framework to allow those working in a sector to collaborate to develop sector-specific roadmaps.

Jane Tait, customs consultant at the Institute of Export and International Trade (IOE&IT) specialising in ESG-related issues, highlights that SMEs are key to UK growth, but need support with ESG compliance.

“The SME sector is the key to economic growth and it also falls squarely in the UK levelling up agenda too. This sector needs support, like the government has announced, and it will enable them to become more compliant and better able to report along ESG lines for future green financing to become a reality.”

Challenges in the climate sector

News of the hub launch comes as research from trade union Prospect shows that people working in the environment sector say that a lack of staff, notably experts and specialists, and low pay across the sector are likely to hamper the UK’s move to net zero.

The Guardian reports that 40% of respondents had experienced a reduction in expert staff and that these shortages have “seriously affected workload levels”.

Sue Ferns, the senior deputy general secretary of Prospect, told the Guardian that, “Despite the government talking up the potential of green jobs, it is failing to put in place the funding needed to make working in the natural environment the aspirational career that it should be.”