Net zero research shows small businesses need support and finance to help UK hit targets

The National Enterprise Network (NEN), the country’s leading representative of enterprise support for startup, small and micro-businesses, has released the results of its 2023 Business Barometer – revealing that more than one in 10 businesses are looking for finance and guidance to help them meet the UK’s 2020 net zero carbon targets.

NEN conducted the Business Barometer survey in collaboration with Enterprise Northern Ireland (ENI) in order to best understand the challenges small businesses face and the support they need to address these challenges.

More than 1,000 respondents, who included the owners, founders and senior managers of largely micro, small and self-employed businesses and sole traders from a broad spectrum of business sectors, took part in the survey.

While the majority (52%) were looking to grow in 2024, almost every business surveyed said they would need additional support to hit growth and net-zero targets.

More than three quarters (77%) said they would be needing finance in the coming year and 20% said finance was needed to help them transition to net zero.

The importance of transitioning to net zero also featured in the Business Barometer survey’s Top Business Needs, where ‘Introducing and embedding green sustainability practices in your business’ came eighth. It appeared again when respondents noted the need for skill development, with one of the top categories being ‘Green / Sustainable Practices’.

52% of the businesses surveyed reported that they are expecting growth within the coming year, while 40% have seen their profit increase this year and 26% have recruited additional staff in the past year.

However, 77% report they are likely to need additional financing in the next 12 months. Specifically, 19% of those businesses are seeking finance to help them decarbonise operations and transition to net zero.

Speaking at NEN’s recent conference, ‘A Manifesto for Change in Enterprise Support’, NEN chairman Alex Till, said: “The worldwide commitment to net zero targets will change priorities and rules around who businesses can work with.

“Many businesses will need support in understanding what this means for them, and how they can remain competitive.

“Often, small businesses lack in-house resources, and it is too expensive and difficult to get reliable advice.

“So, we have to find a way to enable them to make that transition to a new landscape and get contracts with the bigger companies that are now demanding greater sustainability in their supply chains.”

Carol Daniels, operations director at NEN added: “Small businesses are the key to a net zero future. It is evident from the findings in the Barometer that small businesses are eager to evolve and transition to net zero and it is our responsibility, as enterprise support organisations nationwide, to be able to provide guidance and support if they reach out.

“At the NEN, we will continue to represent the enterprise support sector to key government stakeholders and policymakers for essential resources to do exactly this.”

The full survey results are available here.

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