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Engaging with businesses about climate change and environmental sustainability

Image of Climate Outreach logo

Researchers from The Open University and the University of Oxford are developing new ways to engage the owners and managers of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with the challenges of climate change.

‘Growing Greener: Creating a New Values-based Environmental Engagement Toolkit for SME Intermediaries’ has received £48,329 Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Impact Acceleration Award (IAA) funding.

Professor Richard Blundel has been working with Dr Tina Fawcett from the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, Dr Chris Shaw from communication specialists Climate Outreach and other non-academic partners to engage SMEs in values-based interactions about climate change and environmental sustainability.

The project combines a proven ‘narrative workshop’ approach with insights gained from OU doctoral research conducted by team member Dr Sarah Williams. The team will run a number of workshops in England and Scotland to develop a new toolkit and associated online resources, which can be used by business support intermediaries to promote more environmentally-sustainable practices.

In order to secure the IAA funding, the team had to demonstrate how this project would create ‘real world’ impact.

Image of Professor Richard Blundell

Around 99% of businesses are classified as SMEs so while individual enterprises might not have the environmental footprints of large industrial corporations, their aggregate impact is huge. This means that they have a key role to play in addressing climate change and other environmental issues.

Richard Blundel, Professor of Enterprise and Organisation, OUBS, reflecting on the potential benefits

‘Growing Greener’ builds on a small ESRC IAA pilot project, conducted during 2017, which drew on the team’s multi-disciplinary research expertise to engage SMEs through an online survey, informal interviews and two facilitated workshops. Video from the pilot, featuring Oxford research partner Sam Hampton, was used as the basis for a learning activity for the new OU undergraduate module B327 Creating Futures: Sustainable Enterprise and Innovation.

The team presented its initial findings at the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE) annual conference in Belfast in November 2017 and a recent ESRC Research Impact event at St Anne’s College, Oxford. Richard also gave a seminar on the pilot project at Halmstad University in Sweden at the end of February.

For further details on the project please visit the Growing Greener webpage.

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