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Guidance on business support to reduce area wide carbon footprint

The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham declared a climate emergency in 2019 and committed to making the Council zero carbon by 2030, supporting the borough to do so by 2050.

The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham declared a climate emergency in 2019 and committed to making the Council zero carbon by 2030, supporting the borough to do so by 2050. The Council has committed to investing in decarbonising homes, businesses and workplaces, transport electrification and revitalisation and ecological improvement of green spaces, as well as seeking to reap the rewards of a clean growth revolution by securing new green-collar jobs, reducing health and social inequalities and addressing environmental justice. 

But local authorities cannot achieve all this on its own. Local industry engagement in the climate crisis is crucial to success as well as national action. Sustainable X was engaged through the LGA economic growth advisers programme to research and advise how to best engage and support businesses to reduce carbon and waste. The resulting report recommended six low-funding and six high-funding initiatives based on business drivers for change, with a focus on communicating the business case for action and segmenting the market. Lessons learned include the importance of incentives and leverage, as well as the potential benefits of developing the local retrofit market.

The challenge:

An overall challenge for London Borough of Barking and Dagenham is to reduce the Borough wide carbon footprint.  This is coupled with the economic opportunity to benefit from the transition to a low carbon economy.

Businesses based in the Borough have a significant impact on carbon and are critical to enabling the transition to a low carbon economy.

Historically it has been difficult to engage businesses with support initiatives.  Previous programmes on carbon reduction have had relatively low engagement and economic impact. Knowing how to proceed with different national funding scenarios is also difficult.

Further information 

The findings:

Sustainable X were engaged to research and advise on future business engagement and support design to address the challenge – based on desktop research of good practice elsewhere, engagement with key stakeholders (28 interviews) and a survey (30 responses) with local businesses. 

The project identified the most significant business drivers for proactively measuring and reducing carbon emissions:

  •     Customer pressure (particularly in business-to-business relationships)
  •     It is the right thing to do for the planet and people.
  •     To help to save costs for the organisation.
  •     To be resilient and adapt to changes in weather and markets that climate change will bring.
  •     To be regulation ready.

The “right thing to do” perspective is rarely measured in isolation so should only be part of communications rather than the focus. All communications should be on anchored on the business case for action, with language kept simple and business outcome focused.

Organisational needs vary by their size, sector and other demographics.  Scope to reduce emissions is limited for micro organisations, while larger organisations can make significant direct impact reductions and influence multiple stakeholder behaviour including employees and suppliers.  It was recommended to segment the market and create customer “personas” to focus marketing and engagement efforts effectively.

What local authorities can do with limited funding:

1.    Make carbon reduction plans a requirement or assessment criteria for as many business touch points as possible with the supply chain, e.g.: Approved supplier list applications, tenders, grant applications.

2.    Build basic carbon reduction awareness and signposting to into all business support programmes and providers. Particularly sector forums such as the food and film groups.

3.    Partner with other Boroughs schemes and networking groups to promote business cases for managing carbon, Borough objectives, support and opportunities available.

4.    Provide free or subsidised carbon measurement platforms as a way for businesses to use third-party support to get started.

5.    Encourage businesses to submit and celebrate their sustainability successes –distribute via newsletter and press releases.

6.    Provide carbon foot printing and reduction plan creation support to those expressing interest through existing business support programmes.  It would be important to capture their business case for progress. 

What local authorities can do when funding is available:

1.    Create carbon reduction grants of circa £3-5k that can be used to execute specific aspects of carbon reduction plans.  Carbon savings targeted must be quantified, and grants can be used for up to100% of the project or to match fund other grants.

2.    Provide low-cost or free energy-saving assessments for commercial and residential properties.  For commercial properties, applications would require a carbon footprint to be submitted.  The objective would be to develop the capability and capacity (by the council, third parties, or both) to determine the right retrofit actions for specific properties.

3.    Provide low-cost or free energy retrofit quality check/assurance service.  The objective would be building consumer confidence by developing the capability and capacity to ensure work is completed correctly and ultimately give consumers a trusted way to ensure they get value from any works commissioned in line with what has been recommended in their assessment.

4.    Provide an easy-to-access funding/loan scheme for retrofit works that would potentially enable in-year savings for building owners/landlords who invest in any carbon reducing retrofits.

5.    Provide energy efficiency and renewable installation procurement solutions for businesses. For commercial properties, application would require a carbon reduction plan to be submitted.

6.    Consider capturing the interested businesses from “the with lower funding” activities and enhancing progress with specialist 121 support to get plans completed.

Outcomes and lessons learned:

Barking and Dagenham is a challenging business community to engage. To address this problem, the Council has bought access to a sustainability action planning tool for up to 500 local businesses, and is working with its local business support provider to encourage take up, identify potential influencers and early adopters, and embed sustainability support into existing business support. Further levers and incentives, including procurement requirements, are being explored. 

Should significant funding become available, stimulating and developing the building market for retrofit solutions is a worthwhile target from a carbon impact and business benefit perspective.  This would include engaging various stakeholders to build retrofit demand, build business opportunities, develop retrofit skills locally and finally build occupier confidence to take action.

Contact: Tess Lanning, [email protected]