Being a driving force in helping local SMEs embrace sustainability

It is now widely accepted that there is a need for every individual in society to take concrete actions to reduce their impact on the environment. Achieving the United Nations (UN) net zero carbon emission target by 2050 requires decisive global action. 

Here in Buckinghamshire, we have seen that the business community has an appetite to drive change and make a difference. For more than ten years, the Buckinghamshire Business First (BBF) Group has taken a lead role in influencing, educating and supporting the local business community to make practical changes to reduce carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency. This has been achieved through programmes such as the Low Carbon Workspaces grant scheme, and partnerships with local and national stakeholders.

Committing to cut carbon

“Carbon reduction is one of the most pressing issues facing us all,” says Philippa Batting, Managing Director of BBF. “We are committed to taking steps to reduce our own footprint and supporting SMEs on their own journeys too.

“Businesses that lead the way on our journey to Net Zero won’t only benefit the planet, they will also reap the rewards of innovation and customer and staff loyalty.”

Joining the United Nations Race to Zero campaign

BBF is proud to be a carbon neutral Growth Hub, with all our carbon offset to a Gold Standard certification. In fact, we recently signed the United Nations Race to Zero campaign pledge to help reduce climate change, aiming to halve our greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reach Net Zero by 2050.

In practical terms, this means that we as a team work hard to improve our energy efficiency and reduce waste. We saw a significant reduction in our emissions after adopting different ways of working, including homeworking, due to the pandemic. In total, BBF’s combined decarbonisation activity resulted in a 45% reduction in our CO2 emissions between 2019 and 2020.

How we do what we do

A key part of our mission to help businesses in Buckinghamshire achieve their potential is helping them reduce their carbon footprint.

We have been running European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) programmes since 2009 through our subsidiary company Ngage Solutions. As part of our support, we currently employ a team of seven experts who advise businesses on sustainability practices and award grants via Low Carbon Workspaces to businesses across Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Milton Keynes and Northamptonshire.

Through the LEADER Programme, rural businesses in Buckinghamshire, the Chilterns and North West Northamptonshire are supported to increase biodiversity, improve soil quality and adopt new technologies and practices that reduce carbon emissions. Through our work with the Forestry Commission, we have also delivered woodland improvement grants.

Benefits of a green economy

The world is facing a climate crisis and the longer we wait to start to make changes, the harder and more expensive it will be to change direction in the future. By seizing innovation opportunities and leading the market, moving to a greener economy presents future economic benefits for businesses. 

Our role at BBF is to help drive real change by highlighting the importance of sustainability and signposting businesses to relevant support organisations and funding opportunities.

Always keen to raise the profile of sustainability, our team recently delivered a workshop for 27 Business Advisors in neighbouring regions in order to help them support their local small businesses.

Getting start-ups to think about Net Zero from the off

To ensure businesses in Buckinghamshire are thinking about Net Zero and sustainability from the very beginning of their business journey, we have embedded a low carbon-focused module into the workshops of our Be Your Own Boss start-up support programme.

Collaboration is key - and we're bringing businesses together to tackle the climate crisis

When our leadership and management programme, MD Ngage, returned to face-to face meetings for the first time since the pandemic, Net Zero was front and centre of our workshops and a Net Zero Retreat was organised with inspiring speakers, idea generation and thought-provoking ‘walk and talk’ sessions. This has sparked ongoing group collaboration and discussion, with business leaders sharing best practices and competing to see who can innovate and achieve their goals.

We have launched the Buckinghamshire Business First Net Zero Collaboration Circle with the aim of bringing a group of businesses together to pool knowledge, resources and ideas for achieving Net Zero and tackling the climate emergency. We have extended an open invitation to local businesses to join, with the only condition being that they are willing to get involved, listen, share and collaborate.

We invite all businesses to learn more about the drive to a Net Zero Buckinghamshire, sign up to the UN campaign pledge, and join our Collaboration Circle.