Want to step up your boutique’s sustainability efforts? Sign up for this new free online course now

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A free sustainability skills programme designed to help small businesses step up their environmental efforts is launching online this month.

Small Business Britain and Oxford Brookes Business School teamed up to develop the new programme after joint research revealed an appetite among small businesses for reducing carbon emissions.

Their research suggests a high level of sustainability consciousness among entrepreneurs, with 71 per cent planning to do more in the next two years to reduce their carbon emissions. However, 41 per cent said a lack of access to finance placed limitations on their sustainability improvements while 30 per cent were concerned about the time commitment.

The new Small Business Sustainability Basics programme is a free six-week short course delivered online in partnership with Oxford Brookes Business School and leading sustainability experts. It aims to increase the awareness of small business owners about sustainability and net zero, as well as providing practical insights to realise green growth opportunities.

“Last year COP26 placed a much-needed spotlight on the vital role small businesses can play in the race to net zero, and it’s important that the energy generated by this carries momentum,” says Michelle Ovens CBE, founder of Small Business Britain. “There is huge passion among the UK’s entrepreneurs to take action against climate change. Many are already taking important steps and placing sustainability at the heart of their businesses, becoming increasingly mission driven on this issue. But their collective impact could be so much greater with more support, encouragement and guidance. Our new programme is designed to supercharge the sustainability skills of the nation’s entrepreneurs and provide a key foundation to build from.”

Its research also showed that the road to net zero is something that small businesses need greater clarity and guidance on. While only 12 per cent of business owners said they are not aware of the government’s net zero targets, 42 per cent admitted they don’t fully understand what is required. Meanwhile, a further 24 per cent of businesses are not currently doing anything to lower their carbon emissions but would like work towards reducing their economic impart as a goal. 

“With small firms representing 99 per cent of UK business and half of the UK’s business driven emissions, small businesses can play a major role in helping the UK meet its target of reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2050,” says Professor Tim Vorley, pro vice-chancellor and dean at Oxford Brookes Business School.“There are also major benefits for small businesses too, from strengthening resilience and reducing costs to engaging new customers. Our research shows that small businesses see the opportunity here but perceive cost and time to be barriers, so it’s important they are supported on this journey. This free, short course is designed to overcome these challenges and help entrepreneurs to get started and grow their confidence.”

The Small Business Sustainability Basics scheme runs over six separate weekly sessions. The first module Sustainability is Good for Business will discuss the opportunities running a sustainable brings as well as offering expert guidance on starting your eco journey. Other sustainable topics covered include energy use, transport, supply chain and offsetting. 

The programme is open to all small businesses and will feature experts such as Sustainable Pathways co-founder Ciaran Armstrong and Small99 founder Adam Bastock. There will also be an in-person event at Oxford Brookes Business School to celebrate the participants’ success.

*The March Sustainability Basics Programme is now full but businesses can sign up to hear about the next round starting in September here.