New award for trailblazing SMEs

How going green helps small businesses rise above the rest


Posted By:

Craig Burnett


The UK’s 6 million small businesses are the engine of our economy. They make up 99% of the UK’s enterprises, employ 60% of the UK workforce and generate £2.2 trillion of revenue. This means it’s vital they are at the heart of the country’s zero carbon journey.

Small businesses embracing sustainability are not just creating a brighter future for all of us – there are immediate benefits for enterprises themselves too. We’ve listed three big ones below, as well as key areas for business owners to tackle.

Coverage of ‘green business’ often focuses on low carbon sectors, like renewable energy and electric vehicles. But the reality is that for the UK to achieve its low carbon targets, businesses from pubs to pet shops will all have to cut their emissions.

Winners of the 2022 Ashden Award for Greening All Work, supported by LinkedIn, will be announced this autumn. The award winner will receive a cash grant, publicity, and unique networking opportunities and business support.

So why should small businesses cut their emissions?

Staying competitive

The sustainability of your company will be of growing importance in the years to come – both in terms of keeping up with government legislation, and in meeting the needs of business partners.

Here’s just one example: following the government’s sixth carbon budget, large enterprises and the public sector must work towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050. This includes accounting for the impact of their own supply chains. So if your small business supplies a larger organisation, or hopes to in the future, your carbon footprint will become an increasingly important factor in winning or renewing contracts.

Keeping up with customers

Of course, it’s not just government and big business driving the green agenda. The public desire for a more sustainable world is growing – something reflected in people’s buying habits. A 2021 survey by Deloitte found that 28% of consumers have stopped buying certain products due to ethical or environmental concerns. Meanwhile, about half of all people surveyed were willing to pay more for environmental and ethical brands.

Attracting employees

Given shifting public attitudes, it’s no surprise that sustainability is a concern for jobseekers as well as customers.

One US survey found that nearly half of workers contacted would accept a smaller salary to work for a company that’s environmentally responsible. The survey found this sentiment was strongest among relatively younger people, with nearly 40% of millennials (people aged 26 to 41 in 2022) saying they had chosen a job in the past because the company performed better on sustainability than the alternative.

Areas to tackle

There are many ways small businesses can significantly lower their carbon emissions, and reap the rewards above. Steps like printing less, or switching to more efficient office lighting, are a great place to start – but high impact change means rethinking the fundamentals of how your business works.

Powerful actions include redesigning business models to remove high-carbon practices and unlock a path towards zero carbon, changing the workplace culture to make carbon reduction and sustainability an integral part of doing business, and greening supply chains.

Another huge opportunity is helping staff develop the skills to play their part in the transition to net zero. This could mean boosting green skills such as sustainable design, lifecycle analysis and energy efficiency. But it might also include giving staff the skills to work well remotely, to be adaptable and resilient in the face of climate change effects, and to plan their work and schedules in a way that minimises carbon-intensive travel.


Winners of the 2022 Ashden Award for Greening All Work, supported by LinkedIn, will be announced this autumn.

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