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Rural-economy

Local Environment & Air Quality

The Issue

A poor local environment can have a drastic negative impact on health and wellbeing, as well as the profitability of businesses. For example, air pollution has been linked to 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK.

Businesses want to do the right thing for the environment, and FSB broadly supports recent Government policies to increase recycling, reduce single use plastics and plastic carrier bags, and improve the quality of our air. However, such policies threaten to leave many small firms behind, particularly those that are less able to adapt over short timescales.

Unlike householders, most businesses are required to pay for their waste disposal. Costs of waste disposal are rising and many small businesses have limited choice when it comes to disposal and recycling facilities that are affordable and practical.

Elsewhere, FSB recognises the damaging contribution made by diesel engines on our air quality. Although forcing diesels off the road will help to in reduce NO2 levels, such measures will also hit many smaller businesses that rely on these vehicles to survive. It is vital that Government policies – and local authority action plans – to tackle air pollution must be fair and transparent, allowing those affected to adapt. Policies, such as the introduction of Clean Air Zones (CAZs) in England, have the potential to hit up to 1.5 million small businesses and self-employed.

For those still reliant on diesel and petrol vehicles, the UK still has one of the highest levels of fuel duty in Europe, the effects of which are disproportionately felt by small businesses, especially those in rural areas and those that depend on roads to transport their goods and services. 

Action FSB has taken

  • Published our Clearing the Air report, setting out the challenges and opportunities for Clean Air Zones.
  • Working as part of an expert industry advisory panel to inform the creation of the Government’s 25 year Environment Plan.
  • Consistently lobbied Government for a freeze in fuel duty.
  • Called for recycling rules to be flexible to enable businesses working in different types of premises to manage their waste sensibly.
  • Called for small businesses to get the right advice on waste and resource efficiency.
  • Working with regulators and government to make sure they understand the challenges faced by small firms and keep enforcement proportionate.

Our Ask

Government must take a proportionate approach to environmental regulation, recognising that small businesses are a diverse audience and some will be more able to adapt than others. For those small businesses that may be left behind by new requirements, Government should seek to understand their diverse needs and support them in making the necessary arrangements on reasonable time frames.

Compared to larger firms, small businesses are more reliant on roads for transportation and are less able to absorb price increases in fuel duty or the costs associated with Clean Air Zones. They are also less able to adapt to new regulatory requirements. FSB wants to make sure that small businesses have practical and affordable ways to manage their environmental responsibilities, backed up by a supportive regulatory regime.

Achievements in...


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UK/Westminster

  • We published our report ‘Clearing the Air’, setting out the challenges and opportunities for Clean Air Zones. This report has fed into the myriad Government and local authority consultations on how to tackle air quality, nationally and locally respectively.
  • Thanks to FSB lobbying, the Government has frozen fuel duty since 2011.
  • We have worked as part of the Broadway Group – and expert cross-industry advisory group – to create a new report, ‘Blueprint for an Environment Act’. We were recently a joint-signatory in a letter to the Prime Minister setting out our proposals for a new Environment Act and the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.
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