homenews and insights cop26 small businesses

What does COP26 mean for small businesses?

Aled Humphreys
By Aled Humphreys
26 October 2021

Director of Business Energy

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COP26 logo with dates

Director of Business Energy, Aled Humphreys, explains why small businesses should respond to the urgency of the climate change challenge and shares some insight into what COP26 means for small businesses.

The UK is hosting the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).

World leaders and climate experts are meeting in Glasgow on 31 October – 12 November 2021 to talk about climate change and to agree on an accelerated plan of action to reduce carbon emissions. The discussions at COP26 will affect the way we all live our lives – including small businesses. Countries are expected to confirm their plans for investing in renewable energy, phasing out coal, ending deforestation and switching to electric transport.

The turning point for sustainable business

In the lead up to COP26, thousands of businesses committed to eliminating carbon emissions by 2050 by supporting the UN’s Race to Zero campaign. If you haven’t considered your own business plans, take the opportunity now to pursue a greener and more sustainable model of operating.

Reducing carbon emissions makes good business sense. Improving sustainability can help companies become more profitable and attractive to customers. And as all businesses grow, access to finance and investment becomes increasingly important. The Treasury recently published its roadmap for sustainable investing to encourage business and investors to think more about how to facilitate green finance. Small businesses should look out for any green financing arrangements that may come out of COP26. By focusing on reducing emissions, you may be able to take advantage of opportunities and tap into new sources of capital or financing.

A shift in consumer behaviour

Many small and medium-sized businesses are already making changes to the way they operate to try and be greener and achieve net zero emissions. With more customers looking for sustainability credentials, making changes to go greener is not only good for the planet, it’s also good for your business.

Going forward, the government will be urging businesses and consumers to take extra measures to reduce emissions. The ban on petrol and diesel cars from 2030 will lead to more people driving electric vehicles. So, as well as making the switch themselves, small businesses will need to consider how customers travel to their premises and make changes to their infrastructure so customers can recharge.

Eco-conscious consumers will continue to expect more sustainable commitments from businesses post COP26. From packaging and manufacturing to waste disposal and carbon emissions, consumers will expect small businesses to demonstrate how they are environmentally friendly. This presents an opportunity for small business communities, with more consumers wanting to shop locally and reduce their own carbon footprint.

An opportunity to get involved and learn from the experts

There are lots of ways small businesses can get involved in COP26 and learn from climate experts.

COP26 organisers have been encouraging businesses to arrange their own side events in line with the four COP goals and they’ve been sharing some of the most ambitious efforts on their social channels. Not only can you bring about change in your own organisation, it’s also an excellent opportunity to raise awareness and promote your business. If you own a business and have a question, or want to let the organisers of COP26 know what you’re planning, you can email them at cop26business@cabinetoffice.gov.uk.

For those people in and around Glasgow, the climate conference Green Zone is open to the general public – including small business owners. With exhibitions, events, cultural performances, workshops and talks, there will be amazing opportunities to listen, learn and celebrate climate action. You can book free tickets to attend the events in person on the COP26 website, or you can join in virtually by subscribing to the COP26 YouTube channel.

You’ll find SSE in the Glasgow Science Centre (the Green Zone) where we’ll be demonstrating our latest Augmented Reality (AR) Demonstrator Platform for Smart Cities. We’ll also be in the SSE Recharge Lounge at the OVO Hydro where delegates can charge their electrical devices from 100% renewable energy and take some time out from their busy schedules to recharge their own batteries.

As a proud principal partner of COP26 – and one of the UK and Ireland’s leading low-carbon energy companies – SSE is pushing for ambitious climate action to reduce carbon emissions and halt global warming. COP26 is powered by SSE’s Griffin Wind Farm in Perthshire.

SSE is inviting people to sign one of our wind turbines at Dogger Bank, the world’s largest offshore wind farm. We’ll emblazon all the signatures on to mark this pivotal moment in history and as a legacy of COP26.