Through close collaboration and partnerships, passing on good practise and plugging into the many leads now being pioneered by familiar corporate brands, small companies can make an important low-carbon difference both locally and to the deepening climate crisis.
It can be frustrating running a small company and wondering whether your factory unit, work on site, consultancy or office-based business is improving or harming the local environment.
You might also be keen to know if the products you sell, services you deliver and technical solutions you create are adding to or subtracting from the growing global warming crisis.
Fortunately, SMEs in the Northwest don’t have to answer this question alone. Free advice and support from the Chamber Low Carbon (CLC) team across a wide range of sustainable issues can be just a phone call or email away – tel. 01254 356 487 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, with autumn looming an important knowledge-sharing programme starts in September as the fifth cohort of our Green Rose programme gets underway. Full programme details, how it works and how to join are given later after we look at monthly developments and green finance.
Meanwhile, whatever your specific problem, issue or opportunity, the CLC team is here to discuss ideas, explain how grant funding works and visit you on site, if that is the best way forward.
Climate change is once again on the policy agenda. The Government is under pressure to explain how the UK’s new net-zero policy will be rolled out by 2050, if not sooner – with a warning that having “put up a new speed sign”, ministers must now find practical ways to slow down the traffic!
In the North of England, Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool have joined a growing list of UK and European cities declaring local climate emergencies with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, switching to non-fossil fuel energy sources and tackling the growing waste mountain.
These local emergency declarations coincide with the Government reporting its Voluntary National Review (VNR) to the UN in New York on UK progress towards the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” adopted by all UN Member States in 2015 as a “blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”.
The agenda enshrines 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that countries are committed to meeting in a global partnership to end poverty and other deprivations, hand-in-hand with strategies to improve health and education, reduce inequality and stimulate economic growth – while tackling climate change and preserving oceans and forests. The SDGs are an important part of Green Rose.
One of the most symbolic environmental events of a long, wet summer ascribed to oscillations in the jet stream linked to rising temperatures in the melting Arctic, has been young climate activist Greta Thunberg’s zero-carbon Atlantic voyage to speak at UN climate summits in New York and Chile.
Against a background of political and environmental uncertainty, the summer has also seen a growing number of physical environmental tipping points around the world.
In July, parts of the Mexican city of Guadalajara were buried under a 1.5m thick layer of hail stones. State governor Enrique Alfaro commented, “Then we ask ourselves if climate change is real. These are never-before-seen natural phenomena”. Also in July, parts of Alaska within the Arctic Circle sweltered in a heatwave, with outdoor swimming in Anchorage and children walking barefoot.
In fact, with wildfires blazing across northern Canada and Siberia in August, rapid melting of the Arctic permafrost is causing concern. Frozen soils are thawing, often for the first time in thousands of years, and releasing carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide; it is estimated they hold twice as much carbon as the atmosphere at circa 1,600 billion tonnes.
Another area where many enterprises need help is funding. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) research says there is no shortage of global finance to drive the low-carbon transition, but there is a “lack of political will” to quantify risks and create the confidence needed to put money where it is needed.
Small companies, as good supply chain partners, can often show clients their green credentials directly. The problem is more complicated for listed national or international corporate business organisations with remote investments from banks, pension funds and other financial institutions.
The question until recently has been how to bring the interests of both parties together. In September 2017, the Government asked finance expert and former Mayor of London, Sir Roger Gifford, to chair the independent Green Finance Task Force.
As a result, the Government Green Finance Strategy and Green Finance Institute were launched this summer to improve how capital is allocated.
The aim is to close the data gap between developers and investors anxious, firstly, to fund “green” projects such as renewable energy, green house-building and low-carbon infrastructure, and secondly make sure that any investments they make themselves, or on behalf of financial customers, won’t be future hostages to environmental misfortune.
The Green Finance Strategy will support the UK’s radical net-zero emissions by 2050 policy and put clean growth at the centre of the UK’s Industrial Strategy. The Government describes it as “a comprehensive approach to greening the financial system, mobilising finance for clean and resilient growth, and capturing the resulting opportunities for UK firms”.
One question often asked is how committed is business, and the financial sector, to the UK’s low-carbon transition? We know that many companies are delivering sustainable solutions that are inspiring examples to others. But by “simply getting on with it” they miss the recognition they merit.
National and international projects that other businesses can learn from include Tesco taking the lead in the Champions 12.3 initiative which aims to cut food waste by 50%, the Carlsberg zero-carbon strategy and a lot of detailed work by IKEA mentioned later. Regional examples include programmes run by Nandos and Booths in the North West with local suppliers.
However, there is another way where by sharing knowledge Northwest companies, charities and service providers are upgrading their skills and credentials as reliable green partners and sustainable supply chain members.
And that is building – and very importantly operating – their own highly-bespoke environmental management system (EMS) with free professional help on the Green Rose programme.
Green Rose participants have a series of options. Many choose to prepare for external accreditation to the internationally recognised ISO 14001 (environmental) and ISO 50001 (energy) management standards, the British Standard BS 8555: 2016, or EMAS. Those not aiming for the standards can still provide evidence of their environmental commitment with their Green Rose certificates.
Our next Green Rose group of ten cooperating companies begins on 11th September and is structured over six months with monthly half-day masterclasses. For more information, please see – https://www.lancschamber.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Chamber-Green-Rose.pdf.
The overall goal is to create a documented journey of continuous year-by-year environmental and energy management improvement to high standards by enabling company environmental champions, managers and support teams how to find, quantify, mitigate or eliminate risks.
These can range from cutting greenhouse gas emissions linked to poor energy use, water pollution from process effluents, transport contributing to poor air quality, inefficient lighting and many other environmental “aspects” that “impact” on the environment. These are then listed in a company or organisation Significant Aspects Register.
The next stage is identifying and taking mitigating measures; businesses can prioritise which aspects they want to tackle first. It is also important to be aware of, and comply with, relevant regulations and legislation.
A periodic high-level review by senior executives committed to the programme is crucial, followed by reiterating the cycle to achieve the continuous improvements assessors look for each year.
Session 1 introduces key environmental and climate change issues, highlights the benefits of improved environmental management, explains environmental management standards and stresses the importance of commitment and active leadership.
Session 2 looks at how individual businesses operate, the importance of identifying, understanding and documenting interested-party requirements, what environmental impacts a company causes, plus the role of legislation and regulations.
Session 3 considers UN SDGs, assessing carbon footprints, developing carbon management plans, and compiling a compliance obligations register.
Session 4 sets company goals, looks at the role of environmental management programmes, plus roles and responsibilities.
Session 5 covers implementation and communication, operational control and emergency preparations.
Session 6 reviews internal auditing, non-conformance and corrective actions, the importance of management review and the external accreditation process.
Green Rose provides a comprehensive set of example system and operational procedures. Participants are also entitled to a FREE Energy and Environmental Audit and Action Plan. A grant aid system supports energy and resource efficiency measures identified in action plans.
As the saying goes, when neck-deep in alligators it is easy to forget that the original aim was to drain the swamp. SMEs busy making their own important contributions can learn from big brand names that have the resources to act on a much wider-scale. The Co-op is an example.
Keen on ethical values, the Co-op recently joined a long list of businesses committed to the Paris 1.5C goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2025; others include BT, Tesco, Carlsberg, Pukka Herbs, Carbon Credentials and Burberry.
The Co-op aims to halve direct emissions and reduce supply chain emissions by 11%; it halved emissions from 2006 to 2016 and plans a 50% reduction by 2025; last year it achieved a record 20% decrease. As chief commercial officer, Michael Fletcher, explained, “How we do business really matters. The world is experiencing a climate crisis and we need to work together to avoid it.”
Toshiba wants to reduce environmental impacts throughout product lifecycles via energy-efficiency, improved resource use and new low-carbon technologies. Its business model is to generate a “virtuous circle” in all business activities while still meeting stakeholder needs.
IKEA has invested €1.7 billion in renewable energy projects that include building 416 wind turbines and installing 750,000 solar panels on its buildings. By 2020, it wants 100% of its energy to be renewable and will use only renewable and recycled materials in its products, shops and restaurants. Home deliveries will be emissions-free by 2025.
It’s good to talk and we know that every little helps. But it’s particularly good to cooperate and share low-carbon experiences.
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