10 practical tips how SMEs can start their net zero journey

Emissions Gap

The Global Emissions Gap predicted in 2050

The COP26 summit brought parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. It highlighted to the world that we all need to participate in this challenge.  SMEs too can have a role to play. As a marketeer helping businesses implement their marketing Zebroid Marketing wanted to help by emphasising some opportunities for SMEs to start their net zero journey.

Make no mistake the challenging targets set at the Paris agreement back in 2015 are still a long way off. With targets of limiting global warming to 1.5°C still an ever-challenging ambition. The primary way to combat this is to reduce global warming. The world needs to “halve emissions over the next decade and reach net zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century” if we are to get to the 1.5°C target.

Small to medium enterprises (SMEs)

As business owners we can all play a part in reducing our climate footprint for the benefit of society and achieve the net zero targets. Even if we are a small business.

I predict that businesses that play an active role in trying to protect the environment will benefit from additional business volume. That is, without the use of any greenwashing, which has unfortunately had a negative impact in some areas.

Consequently, this will not only impact on these companies’ attracting customers who want to purchase from ethical businesses. It will also help recruit employees who want to work for an organisation that demonstrates, and most importantly acts, on their net zero strategy.

So, as I help small to medium businesses who have not yet started on their marketing journey, I wanted to help.  This is a list of strategies that can be adopted to start your net zero strategy journey.

Here are my top 10 suggestions:

1. Put sustainability at the heart of the business

Sustainability should not be a mere check-box exercise or an opportunity to make a business sound impressive. There needs to be a paradigm shift that sees all businesses consider environmental implications in every decision made.

More importantly the message needs to be led from the top. All senior leaders need to be on board with the strategy and lead by example.

In addition, placing climate risk, environmental, social and governance (ESG) and net zero at the heart of organisational strategy should be key.  Similarly, expanding strategic considerations beyond financial returns and competitive advantage should be embraced.

2. Consider your supply chain choices

When trying to become sustainable, businesses can concentrate solely on their own internal practices. However, for organisations to be seriously committed to tackling climate change, they must consider the environmental commitments of suppliers and partners. They ought to check that the supply chain aligns with their own environmental standards.

One example is asking suppliers to undertake self-assessments focussed on environmental commitments. You can also ask suppliers to report the amount of water, electricity, gas, and other sources of CO2 emissions consumed for parts they sell to them. In addition, they can also work together to improve production processes and reduce consumption.

You should also seek to use local suppliers which will help to reduce the footprint of goods and services. In addition it will also support the local economy.

3. Reduce your energy consumption wherever possible

Electricity used by commercial entities is a significant contributor to global GHG emissions. An increasing number of appliances found in offices and business spaces make inefficient tech choices. One solution is switching from a traditional laser printer to a heat-free alternative. Choosing a business inkjet printer will reduce the amount of energy consumed by up to 83%, and the high yield ink means users can benefit from an overall reduction in consumables of 96%.

Another option is to look at smart meters and see how the data they provide can be used to implement sustainable best practices. For more information have a look at this video from Enterprise Nation.

4. Reflect on how you can support the circular economy

The concept of a circular economy is an economy in which material resources are never wasted and are constantly reused. In theory, this concept eliminates, or at least minimises, the need to keep digging new materials out of the earth. It also eliminates waste going to landfill and incineration.

It’s circular because resources keep going around and around in an endless cycle that can continue indefinitely. This contrasts with our standard practises currently in a linear economy, where resources are mined, used, and then discarded.

As a result circular economy practices have the ability to generate income for businesses. This is because their waste products could be useful to other businesses who can buy them.  Having items that can be returned and repaired and re-sold also creates a continuous customer/supplier loop.

So, when deliberating an office refurbishment or move, why not consider using recycled furniture and flooring. One of my current clients, a social enterprise, Greenstream Flooring CIC uses an otherwise ‘discarded’ material.  They divert carpet tiles from being sent to landfill by selling reused commercial carpet tiles that are no longer required – check them out.

 5. Consider applying for ISO 14001 and / or B-Corp certification

5.1 ISO 14001

ISO 14001 is the international standard that specifies requirements for an effective environmental management system (EMS). ISO 14001 Environmental Management will help your business to become environmentally friendly, manage compliance obligations and reduce waste.

Organisations and companies find that using the standard helps them:

  • Improve resource efficiency
  • Reduce waste
  • Drive down costs
  • Provide assurance that environmental impact is being measured
  • Gain competitive advantage in supply chain design
  • Increase new business opportunities
  • Meet legal obligations
  • Increase stakeholder and customer trust
  • Improve overall environmental impact
  • Manage environmental obligations with consistency.
5.2  B Corp Status

Certified B Corps are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. It is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using businesses as a force for good.

It is a powerful tool to build credibility, trust and value for your business.

To fulfil the performance requirement for B Corp Certification, a company must complete the B Impact Assessment. Consequently, the assessment is based on a free online platform that evaluates how your company interacts with your workers, community, customers and environment. Your responses to the B Impact Assessment determine your total numeric score. B Corp Certification requires a minimum verified total score of 80 across all impact areas.

The questions on your company’s B Impact Assessment are determined by company size, sector, and market, with around 200 questions total. The time it takes to complete the assessment will vary based on your company’s size and complexity.

For help on obtaining B-Corp status, or for any support in embedding CSR, sustainability and social values into your business, take a look at Kindred CSR.

 6. Listen to your employees

These are the people who ARE your business. They work in it day in day out, so know how your organisation works. They can be enthusiastic about ethical business practices. The 1:1 process is a useful tool to use to ask employees to devise ideas on how the business can be effective in tackling the issue of climate change. Another example is to run a competition to see who can cut their carbon footprint the most.

 7. Ask your employees to look at their own carbon footprint

If everyone can do something, then the impact is huge.  There are several calculators to use. This one from Climate Hero is an easy 5-minute online test. It is divided into three sections: housing, travel and consumption.

A typical resident of the Western world has a footprint of 10 tons CO2e per year.

Today’s world average is 5 tons CO2e per year per person.

To reduce the impacts from climate change, we must get that average down to 2 tons CO2e per person by 2030.

8. Measure

Treat sustainability as you would enquiries, quotes and sales in your business. Make it a KPI (Key Performance Indicator) in your business. Start small. This could be a simple spreadsheet which includes key elements. For instance, your stationary consumption, your fuel consumption, electricity, business travel and employee commuting.  Start now and compare year-on-year to assess your progress.

Similarly, setting targets to reduce the elements you are measuring will ensure you are making progress on your journey.

There are also tools available to measure for example your social value.  The Social Value Maturity Index is a method which determines where you are on the journey compared to your peers. it also details what actions you need to take next.

9. Use your presence in your own industry to tackle climate change

By starting the conversation and putting climate change on the agenda you will take part in raising the profile in your own industry. Why not establish what is going on in your own market sector?  In addition, seek out the thoughts of industry groups or membership organisations.

Rome was not built in a day, but all steps lead there.

10. Make it an agenda item in all meetings

If sustainability and tackling climate change is part of your business plan, then it will become embedded in your business. Above all change comes from the top of any organisation. So, this needs to be a key agenda item for the leadership team and needs to cascade through the business.



The essence of sustainable marketing is that you position your brand as an active figure in an environmental or societal issue. It can help cultivate your brand messages. Likewise, it can create another reason why customers should choose you over your competition.

However, you should not underestimate the commitment needed to participate in sustainable initiatives.

Almost every small business should want to reduce their carbon footprint. Nonetheless, there is a cost that comes with sustainability that many might seem to think is inaccessible.

In spite of this, whilst there may be additional costs and resources required to manage a process, there will also be savings.  There is also the attraction of new customers or success in securing tenders and contracts. Grants are also available to help make buildings and machines more energy and resource efficient too.

I hope this list provides some quick and easy adoptable solutions. As the above image shows – the future of the world is in our hands.

Additional resources and help

The FSB has a great knowledge bank of materials designed for small business owners which can be accessed here.

If you operate in the advertising arena then the Advertising Association has launched a new training course. It is a 10-hour online course, Ad Net Zero Essentials Certificate, which is available to all professionals in the UK and internationally.

SME Climate Change Hub is a one-stop-shop to make a climate commitment and access best-in-class tools and resources.

The Carbon Trust is an expert guide to Net Zero, bringing purpose led, vital expertise from the climate change frontline. They have been pioneering decarbonisation for more than 20 years for businesses, governments and organisations around the world.

Energy Saving Trust is an independent organisation – working to address the climate emergency. It is a respected and trusted voice on energy efficiency and clean energy solutions, and continue to work towards a smart, decarbonised, decentralised energy system


If I can help on your marketing journey in support of your first steps to becoming a net zero business, please get in touch. Contact me on 07966 192597 or send me an email.


Image sourced from Pixabay

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