The pandemic has presented some of us with the time and others the necessity to rethink our priorities and values. It has given many of us a renewed gratitude for the natural environment, an acute awareness of our own fragility, and shocking evidence of the impact of inequality in our society, with higher infection and death in deprived communities and amongst ethnic minorities. It has sharpened our sense of urgency in tackling sustainability – as customers and business leaders.
Climate Change remains the number one long-term risk for businesses, as Larry Fink CEO of Blackrock has highlighted for the second year running in his annual letter to CEO’s.
With fosil fuels now causing 1 in 5 deaths and significant savings to be made by reducing fuel consumption and waste, Climate change risk mitigation and management has never been more crucial.
Customers are increasingly seeking sustainable products and services, and some businesses have seized the commercial opportunities for efficiency, innovation and brand enhancement that a clear sustainability strategy offers.
We know that SME’s will be key to delivering the innovation and adaptation required to deliver the UK Net Zero target by 2050. They make up about 99% of UK businesses, and are the grass roots engines of change.
Yet while many SME’s have recognised the challenge, (and some are leading the way) are SME’s equipped to manage the competing demands on their time and attention to deliver the scale of change needed? Are we truly grasping the fundamental shift in our economic reality, do we understand what this means for leaders, and can we establish a clear and simple route map to deliver the long term change needed?
4. Developing a route map for change
You have read this far – you probably share our ambitions for sustainable businesses, embracing the principle of triple bottom line accounting, focusing your strategy on profit alongside people and planet.
But where to start?
The science behind climate change is complex, the changes required are multi-faceted, and the technology and evidence base are moving rapidly.
Don’t let this put you off. This is a long term challenge, and you have no time to waste in agreeing the priority actions you need to take.
And there are lots of resources out there to help you.
As with any significant change programme, you will want to start with understanding your current position. What is your current carbon footprint? (Try this carbon calculator for SME’s from Carbon Trust).
How are you contributing to wider environmental and equity issues?
What are your main risks, environmental impacts and opportunities? What do your workforce, customers, funders and other stakeholders think?
This will inform your priorities for action.
You will also want to tell your workforce customers and stakeholders about the progress you are making. Identifying how you will measure and track progress now will help you to provide meaningful evidence of your commitment, building a brand around your sustainable growth values.
If this series has inspired you to learn more and you are in Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, or the Warrington council areas, come along to the University of Chester’s Sustainable Growth Bootcamp – Big Impact Small Footprint: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sustainable-growth-bootcamp-big-impact-small-footprint-tickets-130582237989
Words by Sallie Bridgen – Ruby Star Associate…