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Business Focus: Small businesses in the Highlands need support to help achieve COP26 goals

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by David Richardson, regional development manager at FSB

Smaller businesses need support to help meet their climate change goals.
Smaller businesses need support to help meet their climate change goals.

Investment pledges measured in trillions, target timescales measured in decades, tens of thousands of delegates, 100,000 protesters… Why?

Because at COP26, the world’s leaders have been debating the survival of our planet.

Translating their high-level, aspirational rhetoric into actions that we can and must take as individuals is understandably difficult, which perhaps explains why a new FSB report finds that while three-quarters of Scottish small businesses have already taken steps to become more sustainable, only a third have emission-reducing plans in place.

There’s a lot of work to do and obvious barriers to overcome.

Top of the list, ticked by nearly three in 10 small firms, is lack of capital.

Our latest small business confidence index reports that over three quarters of Scotland’s businesses face rising running costs, and their confidence has been shaken.

They are in no position to rush out and spend even more money, that they don’t have, on environmental measures and productivity enhancements.

FSB regional development manager David Richardson.
FSB regional development manager David Richardson.

So how are small Highland businesses going to recover from the pandemic sustainably?

Well, reducing running costs to free up the financial headroom they need is key, and the most effective boost for small businesses would be direct help with these costs.

Three in five say a grant or low-interest loan would encourage them to make changes.

FSB is arguing for a new Help to Green voucher scheme, paying grants of up to £5000 to be invested in energy efficiency. Additionally, the British Business Bank says that 22 per cent of small businesses are ready to access external finance to support their net zero activities, so it’s vital that suitable products are available too.

On another matter, too many small tenants say that their landlords won’t work with them to improve their premises’ energy efficiency.

But above all, we need leadership and teamwork. We expect our governments – local, Holyrood, Westminster – to take the bold action required, but they will only succeed if they take the small businesses, who make up almost our entire business base, with them.

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