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SMEs and Net Zero – a state-of-the-art (SOTA) review

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OUBS’ Richard Blundel, Professor of Enterprise and Organisation, and Dr Sam Hampton, a colleague from the University of Oxford, have just co-authored ‘SMEs and Net Zero’. This is the first of two ‘SOTA’ (state-of-the-art) reviews for the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)-funded Enterprise Research Centre (ERC) based at the University of Warwick. The ERC’s SOTA review series comprises short reports, written in accessible language, that draw together the latest evidence, identify research gaps and address key policy questions.

‘SMEs and Net Zero’ highlights the scale of the opportunity for carbon emissions savings among smaller businesses, many of which require zero capital investment. There are nearly six million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the UK four nations, with estimated turnover of £2.3 trillion (around half of the total for UK private sector businesses) so their combined environmental impact cannot be ignored.

The SOTA review examines a variety of tools and approaches available to support SMEs. It also summarises key ‘drivers’ such as cost savings, and ‘barriers’ such as skills shortages, and how to improve on this conventional analysis. The authors call for more reliable data on SME carbon emissions and research on effective ways of scaling up support services.

The UK Government’s Net Zero commitments mean that businesses need to embark on much bolder and longer-term journeys towards sustainability. They will also need to make big changes that won’t necessarily deliver an immediate financial return. To achieve these ambitious targets, we need well-resourced, joined-up policies that move beyond the narrow language of ‘win-win’. Time is short and research will also have a critical role to play in the next few years.

Review authors Professor Richard Blundel (OUBS) and Dr Sam Hampton

Read the ‘SMEs and Net Zero’ review here.

The companion review, ‘Eco-innovation and green start-ups’, will be published later this summer.