NatWest research has revealed that 87 per cent of UK SMEs are unaware of their business’s total carbon emissions, despite good intentions – with almost half (45 per cent) of UK SMEs recognising it is important to lower their emissions in the near future.
These stark statistics follow NatWest’s publication of the ‘Springboard to Sustainability’ report which detailed that, with the right support the UK’s six million SMEs can contribute to up to 50 per cent of the UK’s Net Zero decarbonisation goals by 2030 worth an estimated £160billion in revenue.
To help address this crucial gap between intent and knowledge, the bank has launched the NatWest Carbon Tracker app which provides SMEs with an estimate of their carbon footprint. The app, developed in partnership with carbon tracking expert Cogo, will be piloted with eligible SMEs in the manufacturing and transport sectors to allow those SMEs to trial the app, with no fee being payable for use, before NatWest looks to roll the Carbon Tracker out to eligible SMEs more widely. This will help to address the need outlined by almost half (46 per cenr) of SMEs who stated they would find an emissions tracker tool helpful.
On downloading the app and linking it to their business accounts, SMEs will be able to review their transactions and estimated carbon footprint, see their estimated emissions over time, and compare them month-on-month. The app also suggests ways that SMEs may be able to reduce carbon emissions and learn more about the support available to help them go and grow greener. These suggestions include switching to electric vehicles and moving to renewable energy and other changes that could reduce emissions and could save SMEs money on their energy bills.
The SME pilot follows the successful rollout of the carbon footprint tracking feature to retail customers last year in partnership with carbon tracking expert Cogo to help them understand the environmental impact of their spending and to give tips on how they can cut their carbon footprint. More than 150,000 retail customers have used the carbon tracker since launch in November 2021.
The NatWest Carbon tracker is the latest product innovation introduced by the bank, empowering SMEs to play their part in meeting the critical climate challenge facing the UK. In February, NatWest launched Green Loans and Green Asset Finance propositions for qualifying SMEs, with no arrangement fee, which will allow businesses to invest in sustainable energy, transport, buildings and agriculture.
This follows the partnership launched in 2021 with green energy provider Octopus Energy to help businesses transition to greener transport by offering NatWest customers electric vehicle (EV) chargers at discounted rates and access to Octopus Energy’s public charging network.
Andrew Harrison, Head of Business Banking, NatWest Group said: “As the UK’s biggest bank for business, we know many SMEs are unsure about where to start on their sustainability journey, and many don’t have the time or resources needed to understand their environmental impact.
“However, with the right support, our research shows that by 2030, it will make financial sense for up to 70% of UK businesses to reduce emissions.
“Opportunities exist across all sectors of the economy, but the Transport and Industrial sectors provide the most urgent and immediate positive business cases.
“At NatWest, we want to lead the way in helping businesses across the UK to tackle climate change and to grow greener. A free and quick view of their carbon footprint can help businesses move in the right direction to cut emissions, gain a competitive edge, grow and future proof their business as the UK works towards making a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030.”
Emma Kisby, UK and Europe CEO at Cogo said: “SMEs are absolutely vital to the UK economy. Making up half of turnover in the private sector, they are a key player in addressing the climate challenge.
“As a small business ourselves, we know the challenges and opportunities faced when it comes to making meaningful change in this area. It can be daunting and complex. SMEs need quick and easy solutions that will help them understand their carbon emissions, whilst also highlighting the changes that can make a material difference to reducing their emissions.
“The launch of the SME pilot programme marks an important extension of our already successful partnership with NatWest, with our carbon tracking now available to 8 million of its customers.
“This shows the power of collective action and the magic that can happen when big players in the financial industry partner with sustainability experts. Greater industry collaboration will help us to deliver the scale and pace of change that is needed for our planet.”