Putting green in the black

Posted on 20 Aug 2010 by The Manufacturer

The Government must expand the existing loan scheme for small businesses and provide incentives for firms to 'green' their buildings, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

Otherwise, the UK may fail to meet its obligations to reduce its carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, the federation – which seeks to protect the interests of the self-employed – has warned.

The FSB believes that to get small business owners to proactively embrace energy efficiency, the Government needs to make going green economically viable. While many small businesses understand the benefits of green investment, the upfront cost is a huge disincentive.

Currently, small firms can access a zero per cent loan scheme for energy efficient equipment. The scheme allows firms to ‘pay as you save’ so firms can realise a genuine cost saving through energy efficiency, without having to make an upfront cost.

With 47 per cent of the UK’s carbon emissions from buildings there is an urgent need to engage with the private sector to tackle this problem. Furthermore, with 44 per cent of small businesses renting their business premises, many for less than five years, neither the landlord nor the business would see the benefit of making the building as environmentally friendly as possible. The FSB believes this can be done by:

• Incentivising private sector providers (banks, energy or construction companies) to pay the upfront costs of major building energy efficiency upgrades
• Guaranteeing ‘pay as you save’ repayments through energy bills – by linking the responsibility of repayment to the building would help overcome the landlord/tenant divide
• Supporting new business owners to green their buildings by encouraging firms in the worst G-rated buildings to take steps to move to an F-rating
• Not penalising those who increase their rateable value through greening their premises by waiving the increased business rates

John Walker, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The need to cut carbon emissions and the predicted increase in the cost of energy over the coming decade means that the move to a low carbon economy is more of an economic imperative than ever.

“In order to achieve the tough targets set by the Government, it must ensure that it makes economic sense for the UK’s 4.8 million small firms to go green. Small businesses can play a huge part in the UK’s fight against climate change and we urge the Government to harness this potential when it publishes its Energy Bill, expected later this Parliament.