COP26: Sussex businessman says firms have ‘no shortage of enthusiasm’ to fight climate change

A Sussex businessman has said firms in the county have ‘no shortage of enthusiasm’ when it comes to cutting their carbon footprint.

This week the COP26 climate summit is underway as world leaders look to fight global warming.

Jim Cunliffe, businessman and Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) area leader in Sussex said: “There’s no shortage of enthusiasm among small firms to reduce their impact on the environment.

“The latest FSB report sets out a range of comprehensive recommendations which will equip our 5.6 million small business owners with the tools they need to build a more sustainable future.

Jim Cunliffe

“We now need to see the changes announced in last week’s budget brought in as swiftly as possible, so that small firms can install solar panels and heat pumps without fear of higher business rates bills.”

With inflation surging, cost is proving a significant barrier to green investment, he said. Small businesses require certainty and long-term support – they need to know for sure that their sustainable investments will be worth it in the long run.

He added: “Equally, we have to avoid scenarios where landlords are barriers to progress – too often we hear from members who say they are ambitious when it comes to net zero, but the owner of their premises is less so.

“The challenge we face calls for practical action plans that can be implemented immediately, and we hope to see such plans emerge from this week’s conference.”

The research found just one in three small firms have a plan in place to tackle climate change.

But the majority are concerned about climate change.

Many have, however, taken meaningful steps towards becoming more sustainable, with two thirds (67 per cent) addressing energy usage, and nearly a fifth (18 per cent) investing in microgeneration, FSB said.

Amongst those who have not yet taken action to reduce energy usage, a significant proportion cite uncertainty around return on investment (24 per cent) and a lack of sufficient capital to invest in assets such as heat pumps and solar panels (22 per cent).

In light of the findings, FSB is urging the Government to launch a Help to Green initiative, modelled on Help to Grow, encompassing £5,000 vouchers that businesses could spend on environmental products and services. The group says vouchers could be used to fund an audit of a firm’s carbon footprint coupled with advice on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or enable firms to replace equipment and materials to become more energy-efficient.

FSB national chair Mike Cherry said: “Adopting sustainable practices on the journey to net zero is everyone’s duty. Small businesses are keen to play their part, but often don’t have the resources, deep pockets and dedicated specialists enjoyed by their larger counterparts, so can find identifying and taking the necessary steps a challenge.

“With world leaders converging on Glasgow for COP, we need much more than a talking shop. This moment must be a catalyst, for governments to remove the barriers that are holding small businesses back. If we are to successfully transition to net zero, it’ll be through grassroots action, enabled by smart and supportive policies.”