Our story starts in early 1992 when sben was formed by the Staffordshire Development Association, based in the Business Advice Centre in Martin Street, Stafford.
At the first meeting, 70 delegates attended and 18 companies, including Knight & Sons, Staffs Poly (now University), Wardell Armstrong and H & R Johnson said they were prepared to help set it up. The official launch was on 21 October 1992 at Wedgwood.
When the SDA was disbanded it was decided that sben would be moved to the Economic Regeneration Team, as it was a key priority of the County Council at the time to make businesses more environmentally aware and to improve profitability and competitiveness through the achievements of environmental standard ISO 14401. sben has remained within Staffordshire County Council since.
sben's constitution consists of an Organisers Group, made up of sben members, and an annual AGM is held to vote on key positions and ratifying accounts. Organisers Group meetings are held quarterly where key topics are covered, such as finance, membership, services, marketing, targets set and decisions made regarding future working.
Our first event programme kicked off in January 1993 with 'Getting Started with Environmental Planning', moving on through the year with 'Environmental Legislation', 'Packaging Revolution' and 'Open Forum for members' ideas'.
More recently sben moved to free membership to further support local businesses following the impact of COVID-19, we have adapted our services to suit the changing restrictions and launched two new online tools to encourage businesses to begin or continue with their own environmental journey. Benefits of membership are: sben events at member rates (many online and free); environmental legislation updates; regular sben newsletters; access to the sben website members area; members directory listing; dedicated sben helpline; annual networking event.
Access to Funded Support Programmes includes: a Carbon Tracker for businesses to calculate their carbon footprint; Environmental Sustainability GROWTHmapper tool for businesses to analyse what's working well and where there are opportunities for environmental improvement and development.
The Low Carbon Business Evolution Programme (LCBEP) offers the following to eligible businesses: a free specialist low carbon review around energy efficiency; and a Low Carbon Enterprise Grant up to £20,000 (up to 60%).
Over the 29 years the Staffordshire Business Environmental Network has been in existence, whilst the environmental focus and business needs may have changed, our mission has remained the same; to support organisations to achieve long-term sustainability and maximise their business opportunities through innovative environmental activity.
From the business feedback received and to provide consistent support to the businesses on their journey towards decarbonisation, in 2021, we have launched two online tools. Environmental Sustainability GROWTHmapper is a business diagnostic tool designed to underpin coaching and advice to Staffordshire businesses towards environmental planning. Carbon Tracker is an online carbon footprinting and reporting tool for Staffordshire organisations to measure and monitor carbon emissions, set targets, make a pledge and map their journey toward Net Zero.
It is vital that research underpins our offer to businesses as there's no point providing a service or product that nobody wants. It's also useful to secure funding wherever available to deliver services as this attracts more interest and enables resource efficiencies. Along side this is the importance of collaboration with similar initiative to avoid unnecessary duplication.Regular and targeted engagement with our members via a variety of channels means we make sure members feel valued and well looked after.
It may be easy to think that offering membership or events with no fee will attract more interest but this is not always the case, as members' feedback tells us they would either value us the same or less without charging.
Carbon footprint measured.