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More SMEs need to address their environmental responsibilities

22/08/23

I am proud to announce that we recently pledged our support for the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission. Not only does this legitimise what we are doing at Andel to address environmental concerns, it also helps to spread the word and hopefully inspires others.

Climate commissions bring together people from a range of businesses and organisations to work collaboratively and help drive, guide and track climate action. It is rare, however, for an SME of Andel’s size to commit so much to net zero and sustainability.

I recently spoke to Mobilityways, the UK’s biggest car-sharing community about joining. They told me their products are only aimed at companies with a minimum of 300 employees because currently only larger organisations are being forced by regulators to make these environmental changes.

SMEs are often reluctant to put their name to environmental issues for a number of reasons, they may not have the resources, the budget nor the inclination and may view the Environmental, Social and Governance sector as another burden to worry about.

That is not how we work at Andel, we are committed to net zero by 2025.

Some would say we are trailblazing, it feels more like stumbling in the dark, trying to find a path that does not really exist yet, because so few SMEs have done it before us.

I can understand why some SMEs might be reluctant to put their hat in the ring. I was initially worried about committing Andel in fear that if we did not meet the standards required, we could publicly have our wrists slapped. I also did not want us to pay lip service to our pledge and be accused of greenwashing.

The whole pledge can be confusing too. There is a lot of legal terminology, different rules for different organisations and different standards in different countries. However, the important thing to remember is that we are legitimately trying to reduce our carbon footprint, we are trying our best and that every little bit really does help.

What has certainly helped me is that I have 100% buy-in from all of the management team at Andel. I am constantly asking questions, requesting information and suggesting changes that we can make and rather than being seen as a hindrance, my efforts are seen as helping the business and are fully supported. Buy-in is key if you are an SME signing up for a climate commission.

According to UK government figures, last year there were 5.5 million SMEs with between 1 and 250 employees in the UK. According to the Office for National Statistics last year in the Leeds City Region alone, there were around 150,000 SMEs which accounts for around 600,000 employees. That is a huge number of people just in Leeds who could contribute and make a difference, not taking into account the bigger picture across Yorkshire and the rest of the UK.

If more SMEs get on board, it would make the path easier for us all, change would reach more parts of the UK workforce. The whole point of a climate commission is to do good as a community and work together to elicit change – and that definitely must include SMEs.

Joe Harris, Net Zero & Sustainability Coordinator, Andel