How can SMEs help to fight climate change?
There’s no question that the climate crisis is looming and according to science, we must ensure a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and net-zero emissions by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of climate change. While it may seem like the responsibility of large corporations to make the biggest changes, SMEs and small businesses can play their part too.
Every little helps
The climate emergency is one of growing importance all over the world, and leaders, governments and large businesses are all thinking up initiatives that will help to fight climate change. There’s also a focus on what individuals can do to play their part and how small changes can be really important too.
The group often left out of the conversation though are SMEs (small to medium-sized enterprises of fewer than 500 employees). While they may not have the proportionate swing that larger companies have, we must not forget the importance of flexibility, agility and adaptability if we’re to successfully meet the targets needed.
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was smaller businesses that were able to quickly change their way of working to adapt to the situation at hand. While larger enterprises struggled to change their operations on the scale that they needed to, being dynamic and smaller proved to be effective for many in adapting. Therefore, the same principles can be applied to the climate crisis.
While large corporations may have decades-old ways of doing things, it can mean unravelling a lot of different processes in order to make real change (operations to adapt, suppliers to update, attitudes to modernise). But on the other hand, smaller businesses can make changes more quickly, allowing them to address the climate crisis in the here and now. And with the clock ticking towards 2030, it’s certainly something better done sooner rather than later.
Making a plan of action
But what does that help really look like? Well, every business is different and it will completely depend on the industry, the customers, the operations and what kind of business it is (product or service). It’s important that everyone realises that there won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to fighting climate change and that every business must put together a tailored plan of action.
An easy way to break this down is by considering big and small changes. What big changes are needed in your business to make a difference? Whether it’s switching to a remote or hybrid working model, changing some of the materials used in your product or service, or even updating all company vehicles to electric ones, these are the aspects that may require an investment of time and money.
If it seems like the big changes are hard to tackle, that’s a good time to start thinking about the small changes, to bring the fight back into perspective. What are some simple changes you can make in order to secure a small win? It may be switching to recyclable or reusable products, it may be changing the light bulbs in your office for energy saving ones or it may even be as simple as incentivising staff to use more sustainable modes of transport. Again, this will all depend on the kind of business you’re running but it’s important to have a realistic plan that you can actually accomplish.
Engineering a better future
It’s been said that civil engineers hold the tools and skills to shape the infrastructure of society. Being such a key player in the way we live, civil engineers can impact renewable electricity, energy efficiency, decarbonisation of the industry and carbon sequestration. While the role of a civil engineer has always been to create safe infrastructure, we must now weave an extra layer into the fabric of the role, which is to ensure that infrastructure is not only safe but also resilient and zero-carbon.
Many civil engineering firms (like ours) are small businesses and so they have the ability to innovate and adapt. With only 27% of SMEs citing that they are prepared to deal with the consequences of climate change, it makes sense now more than ever to put together a plan of action and join the fight against the climate emergency.