Bristol’s deputy mayor said there is a “real risk” that increased economic stress could mean businesses are making pivoting to greener operations less of a priority.
Cllr Craig Cheney has revealed that just around 100 out of 18,000 businesses operating in the city have signed up to a Bristol City Council climate change initiative launched in October.
The Bristol One City Climate Change Ask called on organizations to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2030 and develop an action plan to get there.
Cllr Cheney acknowledged the target was “very difficult” for small businesses, with the latest inflation figures showing producer input price inflation at a record high of 18.6%.
“It’s a real risk, but right now with rising energy prices, it’s actually in [businesses’] the interest of reducing their energy consumption and therefore of tackling the windows, the leaks of your building, the overall reduction of your energy consumption will only be beneficial for a company as well. I think there is an opportunity here as well as a risk.
Bristol became the first UK city to declare a climate emergency in 2018, while the city is also set to introduce a clean air zone this year in a bid to reduce air traffic pollution in the city centre.
Cllr Cheney said: ‘There’s a lot of fear if you’re a small business owner when you see these big phrases like ‘climate emergencies’, and actually how do you take the few small tangible steps in your business that can make a huge difference that you may not have realized.
“If you have a building, there are probably things you could do to help address the climate emergency. But knowing it and understanding how to do it and understanding where to find the right documents and the right advice and information is not so easy.
“It’s something we’ve been working on as a council. If we could get the big companies in the area involved, that would be really helpful.
The Cabinet Member of the Council for Finance and Culture was speaking at a panel discussion which saw representatives of small businesses in Bristol discuss the work they have been doing to reduce their carbon footprint.
Brasserie wiper and true; the vertical farming company Lettus Grow; architect Stride Treglown; consultancy firm Archus UK; and data firm Sustain IT joined Natwest’s climate change chief James Close at the town hall meeting.
Mr. Close said the bank was looking to continue offering support to businesses in the region to help them access the capital needed to move into more sustainable operations.
He said: “We really understand the situation that many of our customers find themselves in. We are doing what we can to help deal with the cost of living crisis and rising input costs.
“We have an opportunity here to move away from these high input costs to lower input costs. This is where there is a real opportunity for ingenuity and innovation.
“The great thing about companies is that they are able to approach these problems with a solution mindset. What we want to do is make sure they have the tools to do it from a low carbon perspective and tell the story of how they are progressing so others can follow.
Mr Close added that the green agenda of Bristol and its business community had “real momentum” and was recognized “in the climate community, both in the UK and internationally”.
“There are clearly great peer-to-peer exchange networks [in Bristol]”, he said. “Climate leaders here have been very positive about what they are doing and how they can help each other. Bristol’s whole green branding creates an attraction for this stuff.
“I think [sustainable operations] can be a kind of competitive advantage in terms of cost base and customer acquisition. In a city like Bristol with such a large population of graduates, there are a lot of people who really want to commit to this program. They feel like they want to be part of the solution and they want to have their business on their side and their bank as well, which is part of why we do this work and not just with our commercial clients. but also our retail customers.
Cllr Cheney said organizations like NatWest could “increase capacity and support” for more organizations in Bristol looking to become more environmentally friendly.
The deputy mayor reiterated his concerns that attracting this kind of support for businesses and the city’s environmental program could become more difficult as a result Bristol’s vote to scrap its mayoral system in favor of a committee system.
He said: “I think big national or international organizations like to have someone they know they can talk to who will still be there six months from now. This will be very difficult with the committee system where these chairs may change regularly or where it is not clear where this single point of contact actually is.
“There are benefits too, we just need to see what the new system will look like and how it will come together is yet to be confirmed.”
Factions of those campaigning for a change in the way Bristol City Council is run have argued that West of England Underground Mayor Dan Norris could step into the breach and work to attract large organizations and investments.
Cllr Cheney said: “I guess the risk for Bristol is, who could it be going forward? Will they run a rural or urban program? What does this mean for climate change and are Bristol’s priorities diluted in this? »
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