UK small firms need support to reach Net Zero

Most small business owners say they don't fully understand what the government's 2050 target means for them

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The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has surveyed more than 1,000 businesses, of which 96% are SMEs, to find out how UK small firms are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint.

The findings suggest that nine out of ten firms don't fully understand what the government's target of making the UK Net Zero by 2050 means for them. While most SMEs (79%) are taking some steps to become more sustainable, there appears to be a significant divide on progress between smaller firms and larger SMEs that have more resources.

Planning for Net Zero

A total of 56% of the bigger firms (with more than 50 employees) have a 'complete' or 'some' understanding of the Net Zero target, compared to just 35% of the smaller ones (with less than 50 employees). Almost twice as many bigger SMEs (36%) have developed a plan for reaching Net Zero compared to smaller firms (19%).

Overall, the research shows that:

  • 69% of SMEs have installed LED lighting
  • 34% are investing in greener vehicles
  • 30% are using solar panels
  • 46% are using recycling and waste management strategies
  • 28% use renewable energy providers or tariffs.

Worryingly, one in five businesses (21%) say that using green technology will harm their productivity because of the costs, time and disruption. Just 10% say it will boost their business. However, those businesses that have embraced changes say they have seen cost savings and greater efficiency.

Support for small businesses

When it comes to getting advice about achieving Net Zero, 42% of small firms polled said they would approach the Chambers of Commerce for support and 19% said they'd speak to business advisers such as banks, lawyers or accountants.

Accountants’ role as trusted advisers, creates the opportunity and a responsibility to engage with sustainability in the small business sector and take action - from raising awareness to supporting sustainable transformation of business models and reporting on non-financial information. Accountants should take the lead and to assist in making real, effective change at the heart of SMEs. Every step counts and as part of ACCA’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ACCA is here to support with free resources for members and their clients.  

Brought to you in conjunction with Atom Content Marketing. Offering practical advice to help small businesses succeed. 

Further resources

ACCA's series on how SMEs can create a more sustainable world

ACCA's practical tools to support SMPs' sustainability journey

Download ACCA's guides for sustainable businesses, created in conjunction with Atom.