UK SMEs ‘left behind’ in the race to net zero

SME green

Small and medium-sized businesses are being left behind in the government’s race to an economy with net zero emissions, according to a report.

The risk of neglecting smaller companies puts 52 per cent of Britain’s turnover at risk and excludes a quarter of the workforce, which could mean that the UK will not meet its legally binding targets, warns Bankers for Net Zero, a body made up of several banks that aims to identify initiatives before the Cop26 gathering in Glasgow in November.

Its report says that 99 per cent of British businesses are likely to be unprepared for the increase in carbon reduction policy and regulation, while thus far the government has focused on large companies and the highest carbon emissions.

The UK has a legally binding net zero-by-2050 target. Official estimates in March found that the country’s emissions fell last year to 49 per cent below their 1990 levels, partly because the reduction in car traffic and industrial activity during lockdowns had contributed to the fastest fall in emissions for 30 years. The government’s Race to Zero commitment has backing from 47 FTSE 100 companies, but the report by Bankers for Net Zero warns that if small businesses are left behind, the UK will not be able to meet its goal.

Louise Kjellerup Roper, 48, chief executive of Volans, an advisory firm, and a founding partner of Bankers for Net Zero, said: “We need to help [small and mid-sized companies] to come through the Covid-19 crisis as greener and more sustainable businesses . . . It will be a win-win for businesses and the environment.”