How is this tackling the climate crisis?
The first builds on its longstanding relationship with Cumbria Action for Sustainability. This charity delivers a range of services helping businesses improve their carbon literacy including workshops, advice, training, specialist consultancy services, and Cut Your Business Carbon online surgeries.
In 2019, Cumbria Action for Sustainability began supporting the town of Ambleside’s efforts to become a zero-carbon community. Through this work the charity created its carbon footprint calculator, which calculates a business’s total carbon emissions and gives a detailed breakdown of which areas of operations are the highest emitting.
The second initiative saw the council launch a partnership with consultancy Green Small Business in October 2020, giving local businesses the chance to get subsidised environmental advice and 12 months Green Small Business certification. The consultancy audits businesses’ environmental impact and drafts up tailored environmental policies for them.
South Lakeland District Council covers half of the fee companies would ordinarily pay, and a special offer meant the first 20 South Lakeland businesses signing up could register for a £50 rate instead of the ordinary £300 rate.
Finally, the council subsidises the Purposeful Business Start-Up Programme, a course run by local organisation Future Fixers. Since 2020 dozens of eco-friendly businesses have graduated from the programme, which gives people the skills and knowledge to run a green, ethical enterprise. The council’s backing means the usual £495 fee is cut to £60 for South Lakeland residents (and the course is free for residents receiving unemployment benefits).
Recovery from the impacts of coronavirus on businesses must be done in way that contributes to the low carbon economy, so that multiple benefits can be achieved. Supporting SMEs to go green is a way for local authorities to lead by putting a fairer, greener recovery into practice.
South Lakeland’s experience highlights the importance of promotion. The council publicised the various opportunities across its social media platforms to both its business and resident audiences.
The business arm of the council, Invest in South Lakeland, has a newsletter that goes out to businesses, whereas South Lakeland News newsletter goes out to residents via post – the initiatives were advertised regularly in both. However, the council suggest that more could be done to increase awareness and cross-promotion via word of mouth.
Small businesses are extremely time-pressed and therefore have less time to improve their green credentials. In response, both Green Small Business and Future Fixers emphasise that going green can boost profitability in an age when customers are increasingly valuing ethical business. Communications strategies must focus on this angle to get businesses on board.
What impact has it had?
In 2021, Cumbria Action for Sustainability:
- Held a business support day in Ambleside for over 20 local businesses and organisations.
- Used its contacts to direct businesses onwards to further support. For instance, helping the Levens Village Shop and the Grasmere Victorian House Hotel bid for energy efficiency installations and grants.
- Funded the Solar Made Easy project, through which a trusted solar panel installer will work with small businesses in the South Lakeland area.
By autumn 2021, 23 businesses, from artists to restaurants, had engaged with Green Small Business. Success stories include:
- Helping Hart and Jackson & Sons Solicitors address energy efficiency in an old Victorian premises. The legal advisors also aim to influence their own clients to work towards Green Small Business accreditation.
- Engaging with Land and Sky Media, a Kendal-based production company specialising in documentary film, photography and remote location media. Green Small Business worked through issues including travel emissions, and accreditation has given the company greater credibility with its clients.
So far, between 2019 and 2021, 38 businesses have graduated from Future Fixers’ Purposeful Business Start-up Programme.