Our South Downs has been created to provide an innovative network where businesses and organisations can connect with each other, share services and products, and work together towards sustainability.
The initiative has been launched by the South Downs National Park Authority’s Enterprise Team and is open – and free to join – to all businesses in and around the National Park.
Nick Heasman, countryside and policy manager, who leads Our South Downs, said: “Our South Downs could not be launching at a better time. Businesses have had an incredibly challenging time over the past two years, but one of the positives has been a greater desire to collaborate and work together.
“Sustainability is higher on the agenda than ever before for business leaders and we hope this new initiative will help organisations work towards a greener, more prosperous future and really strengthen their environmental credentials. We’ve also seen a real shift towards ‘buy local’ since the pandemic and more customers are looking at the range of products and services on their doorstep, particularly in the tourism and food and drink sector. These two societal shifts create lots of new opportunities that businesses in the region can capitalise on.
“We know so many businesses are passionate about the National Park and welcome the opportunities of having this treasured landscape and its huge visitor economy. Our South Downs brings all the information, resources and green innovation together in one place and we hope it will help strengthen the local economy over the coming years.
“Ultimately, we want to provide new opportunities for businesses to thrive and also help our precious environment at the same time.”
The initiative has a number of key elements to help these businesses, including free business mentoring sessions from Association of Business Mentors, an regularly-updated online portal with information for businesses with planning and tourism, discounted venue hire at sites run by National Park Authority, advice and support around maximising energy efficiency, creating stronger supply chains and information on new funding opportunities when they become available.
Launching this autumn businesses will also be able to join an internationally-recognised ‘Green South Downs’ certification scheme that champions sustainability.
Our South Downs is an important part of the National Park Authority’s aim to achieve its nature recovery targets by 2030, which includes increasing the amount of land managed for nature from the current 25 per cent to 33 per cent.
A climate change target of net zero for the National Park by 2040 is also key.
Businesses in the National Park provide jobs for more than 54,000 people, with private businesses own or manage 70 per cent of the landscape in the National Park.
To find out more about joining Our South Downs visit the brand-new website at oursouthdowns.co.uk