Last month Northern Ireland-based small businesses were asked to cut their emissions in half by 2030 and to achieve a ‘net zero’ status by 2050 as part of a new UK Government-led drive.
Having had growing importance within Northern Ireland’s corporate agenda over recent years, small businesses, which make up a vast majority of enterprises in Northern Ireland, have been asked to play their part in the fight against climate change locally. The cooperation of these companies would play a major role in Northern Ireland reaching its carbon reduction targets, as 99.9% of all businesses in Northern Ireland are SMEs and generate around three-quarters of all private sector income and employment.
Giving sustainability-savvy customers what they want
With increased demand from consumers over recent years to see green changes in the places they choose to shop, going green not only reduces your small business’s carbon footprint but could increase your profit through greater marketability and a better connection with your customer base.
With more and more eco-friendly products and alternatives available, consumers are more aware of their individual spending power and the impact it may have. Rather than shopping in larger corporations and big brands, customers actively seek out smaller brands that are eco-friendly or conscious of their impacts on their communities. Small businesses tend to be able to better ‘pivot’ their business practices to make sustainable like cutting down waste, switching to renewable energy and reassessing work commutes, and they can more easily communicate their vision and purpose to both their consumers and employees.
Harnessing the momentum of ‘supporting local’
The Covid-19 pandemic spurred a drive which encouraged consumes to shop and support local companies run by friends, family and neighbours within their communities. Facing closures of brick-and-mortar shop fronts, many businesses pivoted to online formats and experienced a burst of new clientele as a result of their increased online footprints.
While global brands and high street chains continue to struggle with the ongoing effects of the pandemic, many local brands continue to ride the wave of digital success and are now perceived as close competition to previously-established well-known brand names.
Many small businesses adapted and changed according to the ‘new normal’, going online in order to survive and reinventing their business models. Whilst the Covid-19 pandemic has caused many hardships for SMEs’, it seems to have become somewhat fashionable to ‘shop local’. By fusing these new business practices with the drive to reduce carbon footprints, these local businesses could maintain recent business successes by continuing to show their support and investment in the well-being of their local economies and communities.
According to a recent study conducted by the University of Leeds, within the context of the Covid-19 crisis, companies were committing to reducing their carbon emissions largely due to internal factors. Specifically, companies said they were adopting net-zero practices to reduce their costs and to improve their image and reputation. Government policies, especially grants or subsidies as well as environmental regulations and taxes, were the key external drivers of adoption of net-zero practices among firms in the UK.
There’s no question that major global factors have re-framed the way in which consumers choose where they spend their money and which brands they gravitate toward. Between the increasing need to combat climate change and the tumultuous environment in which businesses are operating, large and small companies alike have made major changes to adapt and stay relevant to their customers. Thanks to the agility and willingness of local SMEs to embrace change, they are in an ideal footing to continue to disrupt the status quo set by larger corporations within their industries, better embedding themselves in their communities and showing their dedication to a sustainable future for all.
If you think switching to 100% renewable electricity generated in Northern Ireland could help your company’s carbon reduction strategy and help communicate your commitment to a green future, contact us to have a chat about switching to green.