What does sustainable finance mean for small businesses?

Blogs 13 Mar 2023

Learn about sustainable finance, why it’s important and the six actions needed to support small businesses in the journey to net zero, according to FSB Funding Platform.

Business owner calculating expenses with receipts, laptop and calculator. Only their hands are visible

What is sustainable finance? 

Sustainable finance is the process of taking environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations into account when making investment decisions. This leads to more long-term investments in sustainable economic activities and projects, such as renewable energy or electric vehicles.

Why is this important? 

Increasingly, larger financial organisations are devoting greater resources to meet these goals as we transition to a sustainable economy. Often defined as net zero, circular or restorative, this new kind of economy is inclusive, resilient and exhibits high levels of social and environmental justice. 

Small businesses have a crucial part to play in the journey to net zero emissions too, as the UK’s 5.5 million small and medium enterprises make up the majority of our business population. However, more needs to be done to support actionable change for smaller firms. What’s more, they face increasing economic barriers, and a lack of education and understanding.

What support do small businesses need?

Whilst few businesses will have heard of - or be able to access - Green or Sustainable Bonds, there are a growing number of financial products increasingly rewarding businesses that consciously seek to reduce their carbon footprint. For small businesses to be able to do their bit to achieve net zero or benefit, action, and help is needed in six key areas.

  1. Funding access

    Financing options that reflect the societal benefit of delivering climate action
  2. Awareness

    Support to recognise the strengthening opportunity from climate action. This support needs to be applied to their specific business context and should highlight the key skills required to transition successfully.
  3. Knowledge

    Help to improve small businesses’ climate action knowledge, whether to meet reporting standards or specific sector knowledge to reduce their impact. For example, through new farming practices or heat pump installations.
  4. Skills and capabilities

    Help to develop new skills to deliver a business transition, including retraining and upskilling employees to achieve relevant accreditations and certification.
  5. Market access

    Small businesses looking to unlock broader climate action need improved financial certainty of the benefits of doing so. For example, regulation can help to ensure that roll-out rates for infrastructure like electric vehicle charging points identified by the Climate Change Committee are achieved, or to reduce the costs of the transition.
  6. Navigation

    Finally, small businesses need support to navigate the complex and evolving landscape, including prioritising different opportunities, understanding what support is available, and, ultimately, realising the benefit to their business.

Where can you find more support? 

FSB Funding Platform gives you greater transparency and awareness of the funding options available to support small businesses. FSB’s sustainability hub is also home to further resources, events and guidance to help you on your journey.

FSB Funding Platform is free to use for FSB members and helps drive down the cost of borrowing - not only through the use of our unique technology but also through our excellent engagement with lenders. Indeed, some lenders already have financial products rewarding businesses that consciously seek to reduce their carbon footprint. Get started with your application here

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