Small businesses in a time of change

This post is by Sophie O’Callaghan and first appeared on the Climate & Us blog.

Smaller and medium-sized businesses are the life-blood of the UK’s economy. How are they preparing for climate change?

In the UK in 2013 the business sector accounted for around 16 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions so it’s clear that businesses have an important role to play in helping to reduce the impacts of climate change. Many businesses will also feel the impacts of climate change on their activities and on their profit margin.

At the Centre for Business and Climate Solutions we are working to help businesses to take action to prevent and adapt to future climate change. The CBCS is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund 2007-2013 under the South West Competiveness Programme.

The tourism industry is vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather.

I hope that as awareness of climate change becomes more widespread, more businesses will take notice and think about how they can best respond. Larger businesses are in a better position, as they are able to hire consultants and employ specialists to guide their decision making. But what about the smaller businesses? The majority of small businesses are taking some form of action to reduce their carbon emissions. But many business owners don’t know how to adapt and respond to the unavoidable impacts of climate change. Part of my role is to help businesses to consider the best course of action.

It seems to me that the concept of climate change and its potential impacts is still relatively new to most people. Understandably, business owners therefore want to gain a better understanding before making any decisions about what to do. Add this cautious approach to a general difficulty among smaller businesses to consider the long term, plus a lack of time and money and we have a recipe for inaction.


In my role I work on a personal, one-to-one basis with businesses. It is rewarding to help people to understand that a positive response to climate change can, in many cases, be a simple matter of identifying the risks and making effective plans. This can help a business to keep its doors open, stay profitable and maybe even get ahead of the competition. I have come across cases of businesses that have looked ahead and prepared their premises against flooding. After recent flood events they have been back to normal trading after a few days whilst their neighbours faced recovery times of several months.

It is great to see that some businesses that we work with are already taking climate change on board and beginning to act. People working in the construction sector, such as architects and builders, are telling me that they are more than ready to consider climate change impacts. This is because they can see that the decisions they make today will affect the buildings that we will all be living and working in 100 years from now. Sadly the tourism sector is quite vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather events. This year many tourism businesses in the South West found that, even though only a few businesses suffered from the extreme weather earlier in 2014, people were still put off taking their holidays in the region due to a perception that the whole area was still affected.

Contact us via twitter: @ExeterCBCS or visit our website.

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