Learning to speak language of climate change – Mark Sterritt

Mark Sterritt, UK network director, Scotland at the British Business Bank.

Recent research from the British Business Bank supports this, showing that Scotland’s smaller businesses are the least likely to find green terminology overly complex. Only around two-fifths (39%) surveyed said they feel the language is inaccessible, compared to 54% of respondents across the UK.

However, despite the level of knowledge across the board, there are still question marks for decision-makers around some of the most commonly used sustainability terms. Almost all (97%) of those surveyed said they do not fully understand the term greenhouse gas emissions, for example, and businesses are uncertain about how these topics apply to them.

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Net zero and carbon neutral were also phrases that could cause confusion, with the majority (77% and 75% respectively) reporting that they are unsure about what they mean. With such a large proportion of smaller businesses unclear about key terms, it shows there is still a lot of work to be done to help them get a better appreciation of sustainability issues and see the relevance for their businesses.

Results from the survey have been used to inform the Bank’s new #GreenToGrow campaign, which aims to demystify and alert smaller businesses to the commercial benefits of investing in decarbonisation.

More than half (59%) of the Scottish survey participants think that more information and advice about taking action to measure and reduce their business’ carbon emissions would be helpful, with half (49%) also wanting information to help determine whether reducing carbon emissions makes financial sense for their business.

By becoming more sustainable, smaller businesses can enhance their competitive edge and expand their customer base, as well as helping to tackle climate change. However, the research also highlighted a widespread misconception about where carbon emissions actually come from.

Almost three-quarters (71%) of respondents in the latest study believe that large corporations are responsible for the majority of business emissions, but the Bank’s Smaller businesses and the transition to net zero report, published in October 2021, showed that smaller businesses account for around half (50%) of total emissions from UK businesses.

Everyone in Scotland has a role to play in achieving net zero by 2045 – particularly the business community. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, just 3% of smaller businesses say reducing their carbon footprint and environmental impact is their number one priority for this year.

Information and guides are valuable resources, but they are just one piece of the puzzle. Smaller businesses need to be equipped with the basics, such as a guide to key terminology and an understanding of sustainability concepts, before considering more significant changes to their operations.

With better access to relevant, understandable advice that is relatable to smaller businesses and the challenges they may face, we can support Scotland’s business owners and entrepreneurs to make positive changes to reduce their emissions, become more sustainable and see the potential commercial benefits.Mark Sterritt, UK Network Director, Scotland at the British Business Bank


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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