Big firms urged to help their small suppliers reach net-zero

Small Business Commissioner Liz Barclay is urging the UK’s big businesses to help their smaller suppliers begin the transition to lower-carbon ways of working and reap a dual benefit.

This month’s challenging climate negotiations at the COP26 conference in Glasgow outlined the urgency of taking decisive action towards net zero. The promises made by negotiators now need to be backed up with action. In the UK, small and micro-businesses are now beginning to take steps towards reducing the impact of their carbon output, but many find it difficult to work out what they should be prioritising.

This is where larger businesses could exemplify and model good practice, according to the Small Business Commissioner.

Liz Barclay, who took over the Small Business Commissioner role in July said, “my team and I focus on helping small businesses struggling to deal with the poor payment practices of larger firms. These often include late payments, short-notice contract variations or, even non-payment for work. These have a negative impact on the cash flow of a small business and aren’t acceptable. Given some of the wider challenges small businesses face post-Covid around debts, loan repayments and rising costs, waiting to get paid could stop them from taking steps towards carbon reduction.

I’m calling on bigger customers to commit to simple and quick payment processes, give priority to paying small business invoices, and offer practical help to their small suppliers. The win-win benefits will be huge: larger firms get additional plaudits for their commitment to lower-impact, smaller-scale business needs, and small businesses have the confidence to plan and invest in their transition to a low carbon economy. Small businesses will benefit from the practical experiences shared with them by their bigger customers.

“Take it a step further, as a larger business, and you gain hero status with investors, customers, and talented employees, as a firm that ‘does the right thing’. You might have the chance to share net-zero advice and best practice, pay for small suppliers to go digital or change to LED lightbulbs, or help them offset some of the initial costs of their first steps towards net zero.

“Everyone wins, and business relationships and supply chains are strengthened.”

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