Small businesses make up 99% of the UK’s business community so they’ll play a crucial role in reaching the Government’s ambitious target to reach net zero by 2050. Yet, understandably, small businesses don’t always have the time, resources or expertise to dedicate to this – especially as they focus on recovery from the pandemic. A study from the British Chambers of Commerce and O2 found only one in 10 small businesses are measuring their carbon footprint, and a fifth of small businesses don’t fully understand the term “net zero”. Cost, and an ability to understand, measure and report emissions are cited as two of the main barriers to change.
The free, simple and actionable training will help small businesses overcome these obstacles. The programme is designed for small businesses starting their journey towards sustainability, with an emphasis on how a sustainability strategy can help drive business performance. It sets out the business case and imperative for cutting emissions, and explains practical, digitally-focused ways to decarbonise – from using paperless billing and Cloud-enabled technology, to renewable energy sourcing and supply chains. Since we know how much consumers care about this, it also covers how small businesses can use their sustainability credentials to differentiate.
Ronan Harris, MD, Google UK, said: “Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. By focusing on their climate impact they can play a critical role in helping the UK to reach its climate goals and show leadership on a topic their customers care deeply about. Climate action has always been a focus for Google – from becoming carbon neutral in 2007 to our latest and most ambitious goal to operate on carbon-free energy, every hour of every day, by 2030. Through efforts like these we’re committed to helping other businesses make their own journey towards a carbon-free future.”
One business already doing this successfully with support from Planet Mark is catering company, Fooditude. They made tangible changes to their business, like limiting their food waste, going paperless with admin systems and swapping to local suppliers, and reduced their emissions by over 30% per meal.
Dean Kennett, Fooditude’s Managing Director, commented: “Our CSR work and sustainability credentials have become a great conversation starter with current and new clients. We’ve seen a third of our business coming from our sustainability connections (£3 million revenue), and they’ve helped attract staff who share our values. As a catering company it’d be easy to just focus on food waste, but if you look across your business there are lots of small changes you can make right away. We can’t believe how simple it’s been, at first it’s a little intimidating but it soon becomes part of life – whether it’s setting up energy saving processes or reducing paper consumption.”
The training is being delivered through the Google Digital Garage, building on Google’s experience of coaching more than 650,000 people and small businesses in the UK in digital and business skills. It has been developed in partnership with Planet Mark, who bring deep expertise from their work to support SMEs to become more sustainable over many years.
Companies who complete the training are encouraged to make a commitment to going net zero by signing up to the SME Climate Commitment, which can be found on the UK Business Climate Hub. Businesses who sign up and share their commitments will be recognised by the United Nations Race to Zero campaign and inspire other businesses to take action.
Steve Malkin, founder and CEO, Planet Mark, said: “This is an exciting partnership that brings together the best of sustainability, innovation and technology to help SMEs on their path to net zero and see the benefits it brings to their businesses. Planet Mark has helped hundreds of SMEs embrace sustainability and radically cut carbon, and now working with Google and partners we can help thousands more and move the dial on climate action.”
Measuring carbon emissions accurately is essential if small businesses are to know if their actions make a difference, but most small businesses can’t do this alone. That’s why Google is also announcing its support for Normative, the software platform behind the SME Climate Commitment, to help businesses track and account for their carbon emissions, making climate mitigation easier and actionable. Over the next 6 months, as part of the Google.org Fellowship, Google will provide a team of 11 Googlers to work full-time, pro bono, to assist Normative with building the technical infrastructure that underpins the free-to-access platform. Normative was one of the organisations to receive a €1M grant through the Google.org Impact Challenge on Climate, which funds bold ideas that aim to use technology to accelerate Europe’s progress toward a greener, more resilient future.
Kristian Ronn, CEO, Normative, added: “With the support of the Google.org Fellows we’ll be able to develop the technology that powers the SME Climate Hub to measure carbon footprints much more accurately and in a more automated way. This means we’ll be able to scale the platform to help more businesses, not just in the UK, but around the world.”