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Survey shows net zero skills gap

30 March 2023

A NEW survey from UN-backed SME Climate Hub reveals that small to medium-sized businesses need much more help with their Net Zero ambitions. The survey indicates that half of SMEs calculate emissions, and 60% have plans to reduce carbon impact – but two-thirds of small business owners are worried they don’t have the right skills and knowledge to tackle the climate crisis.

Businesses unsure of how to start their net zero journey or seeking guidance on best practices can get help to plan a way to a leaner, cleaner strategy for sustainability with SaveMoneyCutCarbon, Britain's leading sustainability and money saving platform, who are offering a free 30-minute Carbon Mentor call to to give expert guidance on where to start, what ROI to expect, how to manage budgets and what could be achieved through green initiatives.

It’s crucial that SMEs globally succeed in implementing comprehensive carbon reduction plans, and in the UK to support government ambitions to achieve Net Zero balance by 2050. It’s also essential for SMEs to be acting, measuring and reporting as this data feeds into the Scope 3 reporting elements of larger corporations. The need for effective and sustainable support is starkly underlined by the fact the SMEs make up 90% of business worldwide and affect the livelihoods of over two billion people, contributing more than half of global GDP. The SME sector has to decarbonise quickly and sustainably in order to help reduce the existential threat of climate change.

Net zero knowledge

The task is not insurmountable but there are very significant barriers. Of the SMEs polled 63% advised a lack of skills and knowledge as the main cause for delaying climate action, along with funding (48%) and time (40%). Around 70% of SMEs said they required access to external funds to start cutting emissions or reducing them faster. Only a third of SMEs have been offered a financial incentive to reduce emissions and only 8% have received support from their banks.

Of those companies surveyed, 47% of them were advised they would need up to $100,000 to reach net-zero. Respondents claimed that more public and private sector investment would help them with their decarbonisation goals. At the same time, the survey found that 80% SMEs consider reducing emissions “a high priority,” with businesses making efforts to cut their greenhouse gas emissions through reductions to energy consumption and waste (82%), employee education (64%), and upgrades to facilities and equipment (52%). In contrast, only 60% had a long-term emission reduction plan in place, focussing mainly on the importance of short-term actions.

Benefits of carbon reduction

The survey also shows that SMEs have a growing understanding of the benefits of carbon reduction, keenly aware that climate action builds more resilient businesses. Companies are focussing on Net Zero to enhance the reputation of their brand (73%); differentiate their business from competitors (61%); and meet customer expectations (42%).

Perhaps surprising, but very encouragingly 96% of companies surveyed cited “the right thing to do” as a key motivation for taking climate action and this is despite 77% of SME respondents not being asked to reduce emissions by customers. Their main challenge is lack of resources, particularly skills and knowledge, cited by 63% of surveyed businesses.

This includes advice and education on where and how to get started, as well as the need for basic understanding of the role SMEs can play in climate action, and what tools are available to support their quest for Net Zero.Previous studies by the SME Climate Hub have also pointed to confusion around how to navigate reporting and certification schemes that are often designed for larger businesses.

SaveMoneyCutCarbon’s team has the knowledge and skills to provide guidance, services and solutions for SMEs navigating the net-zero path. Through helping companies in auditing, specifying and installing energy-saving projects. Their services have reduced energy consumption by over 3 million kWh, saved thousands of litres of water and reduced CO2 emissions, in just one year. Further information about their projects can be found here.
How SaveMoneyCutCarbon's Carbon Mentor programme works:

  • Businesses should book a call by filling out a form here.
  • They will be sent a link to book a 30-minute, no-obligation conversation with one of the team's IEMA-qualified energy and carbon mentors via Zoom.
  • The call will focus on how the specific organisation can save energy and water to reduce energy costs, and how this will benefit their profit margins. Whilst issues of carbon reduction were the main drivers of previous calls, this has now taken a backseat due to the exponential increase in energy prices. During the call, all applicable technologies are discussed to help the organisation reduce energy and water consumption.
  • A series of informative guides are supplied to the client, who decides whether they'd be interested in moving forward with the mentorship.
  • If the business decides to move forward, SaveMoneyCutCarbon will always recommend an audit, to begin with – this measures the amount of energy and water being consumed across the building.
  • Ways to make reductions are recommended, using an interactive tool which demonstrates the savings and costs associated with the changes.
  • The client decides if they have the funds to finance any retrofit solutions – or we finance it for them.
  • SaveMoneyCutCarbon delivers on the project, complete with installation and project management through to maintenance and aftercare.
  • You can find out more about this service by watching this video.

 Lee Hyde, director of sustainability as a service at SaveMoneyCutCarbon, comments on how the money-saving and sustainability platform can provide guidance, services and solutions for SMEs navigating the net-zero path: “As small businesses continue to tackle the cost pressures of inflation amidst weakening government support for their energy bills, it has become crucial that firms have the resources they need to adequately plan ahead. In terms of sustainable practices, the simplest swaps – such as switching to LED lightbulbs - could make a huge difference in the rising prices they are seeing on their energy bills.

“For big change to happen, having eco-friendly appliances in the workplace is becoming less of a matter of good hygiene and more of a necessary staple in terms of survival. I think in the next few years, having proper consultation on the best sustainable practices will prove to be a make-or-break for businesses across the board. The incorporation of green behaviours into every business strategy won’t just benefit the bottom line but will add a competitive advantage to any business’s value.”