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East Midlands Chamber News

Sustainable East Midlands campaign launched by Chamber to put region at forefront of UK’s ‘Build Back Greener’ vision

East Midlands Chamber has urged the region’s businesses to go green and reap the benefits to their bottom line in a new campaign.

The Sustainable East Midlands initiative will highlight both the business case and regulatory requirements for companies that engage with the low-carbon agenda.

It includes a new online information portal that will point firms to financial support available to them and a series of educational events, beginning with the East Midlands Energy Summit later this month.

The campaign has been launched following research by the Chamber and University of Derby, which highlighted how sustainability is rising up the business agenda – but also showed a gap in awareness for many organisations.

East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “With the seismic shift in the economy and the way businesses look to develop new ways to operate, there is no better time to focus on the opportunities and the potential offered by the sustainability agenda.

“With its manufacturing heritage, innovative businesses and academic base, the East Midlands has the raw ingredients to be at the forefront of delivering a low-carbon economy – particularly important at a time when the UK Government has a vision to ‘build back greener’ from the pandemic.

“This isn’t just about sustainability for the sake of being greener, as this translates into the bottom line of businesses through efficiency and resilience. Adopting greener credentials reduces running costs and helps to win new contracts and business.

“The Sustainable East Midlands campaign will play a pivotal role in shining a spotlight on the great companies already heavily engaged in the low-carbon agenda, while signposting more businesses in this direction – because now is the time to take responsibility and reap the rewards.”

University of Derby and East Midlands Chamber research on sustainability engagement and awareness among businesses

Sustainable East Midlands is the product of a long-standing partnership between the Chamber and University of Derby, which has yielded unique data about the region’s engagement with the sustainability agenda.

In February, the university included a set of questions related to this topic for the Q1 2020 edition of the Chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey, which explores a range of business interests to gauge the state of the region’s economy.

More than 400 Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire businesses took part in the survey and it showed the percentage of businesses deriving turnover from low-carbon and pro-environmental goods and services has nearly doubled between 2015 and 2020 – growing from 16% to 31% during this period.

Just over a third (35%) of businesses said they were integrating clean growth into their business plan, while the proportion of firms not considering clean growth opportunities at all had decreased from 36% in 2018 to 14% in 2020.

On the flip side, four in 10 businesses said they did not feel well-informed about support for clean growth.

Dr Fred Paterson, an associate professor at the University of Derby and the Low Carbon Business Network lead at Derby Business School, led the research team.

He said: “There is growing evidence that companies putting environmental sustainability at the heart of their operations are more successful and more likely to survive over time than other firms.

“At the same time, the UK low-carbon economy has been growing steadily for more than a decade and has weathered storms like the financial crash of 2008 and the Covid-19 pandemic better than other sectors of the economy.

“It's no surprise that our research has shown the number of businesses in the East Midlands that provide pro-environmental goods and services has doubled over the past five years.

“The Sustainable East Midlands initiative is therefore a really welcome support for the increasing number of smaller business that want to build their sustainable credentials and grow their business in ways that are also positive for the environment.”

What the Chamber is doing as part of Sustainable East Midlands campaign

A new Sustainable East Midlands web portal has been launched alongside the campaign, featuring events, news and information on funding support and programmes in the region and UK. 

This year’s East Midlands Chamber Business Awards will include an Environmental Impact Award for the first time, while the Chamber has increased the frequency of its Sustainability Forum events over the past year, with six held in 2020 and covering topics such as carbon footprinting and smart buildings.

Sustainability is at the top of the agenda at the East Midlands Energy Summit, which takes place on Thursday 19 November and is hosted in partnership with the University of Nottingham’s energy innovation and collaboration team.

The free online event include a range of keynote presentations, panel discussions and Q&A sessions exploring everything from regional low-carbon opportunities and self-sufficiency to innovative energy-efficient products and new business opportunities in new, more demanding, supply chains.

Speakers include Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Midlands Engine chairman Sir John Peace and David Johnson, plant manager and site redevelopment manager for Uniper at Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station.

Meanwhile, the Chamber will be exploring how to reduce its own carbon footprint through employee behaviour and facilities management, working towards being one of the first chambers of commerce to achieve an environmental accreditation.

A Sustainable East Midlands page has also been launched in the November edition of the Business Network magazine, which is distributed to members, to showcase achievements in this area and educate businesses.

Sustainable East Midlands campaign backed by businesses in region

The Chamber’s Sustainable East Midlands campaign has been backed by business and political leaders in the region.

Amanda Solloway, MP for Derby North and Science Minister for the Government, said: "I'm delighted to hear about the new Sustainable East Midlands initiative from East Midlands Chamber and am really encouraged that so many businesses in the area have begun developing new ways to be sustainable. It's really important going forward that we continue in this trend in and build back greener.”

Wayne Bexton, head of energy services at Nottingham City Council and chairman of the D2N2 Energy Board, has been the steering force behind Nottingham’s bid to become carbon-neutral by 2028.

He said: ‘’The Sustainable East Midlands campaign links directly to our D2N2 Energy Strategy and Nottingham’s ambition to be carbon-neutral by 2028.

“The role of businesses is fundamental to a green recovery, enhancing the supply chain strengths of the region within the already well-established low-carbon economy.

“I’ve also been delighted to witness businesses adapting and committing to their own carbon-neutral goals.

“Public-private partnership working is the only way we’ll achieve our collective sustainability ambitions and I’m positive we can lead the way as a region.’’

Steff Wright has built a number of sustainability-focused businesses under his Newark-based Gusto Group, including eco-housebuilder Gusto Homes.

He said: “The Sustainable East Midlands campaign is being launched at a time when it has never been more important for businesses to re-focus their activities – firstly in reducing their environmental impact and, secondly, to supply the low-carbon products and services being demanded by the rapidly-changing market.

“Re-wilding the planet and shifting our economic activity to work with nature, rather than against nature, is not a short-term trend. It is the only option we have and the businesses that move quickly will be the successful growth companies of the future.”

Chamber board member Martin Rigley is managing director of Lindhurst Engineering, which has transformed from a company supplying traditional industries such as coal mining to now be at the leading edge of technology – creating a “smart factory” in Sutton-in-Ashfield that improves its energy efficiency. It is a recipient of the Investors in the Environment green award.

He said: “The awareness of the need for businesses to become more sustainable has been around for over a decade, but with the constraints placed upon businesses as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the rhetoric now needs to turn into actions and fast.

“In these very uncertain times, the one thing we can be certain of is that the way we do business has changed for ever and turned nice-to-have initiatives around sustainability into must-do actions.”

Roadgas, based in Colwick, Nottingham, installs infrastructure for green fuels such as biogas, including the refuelling stations used by Nottingham City Transport’s 120-strong fleet of biogas-powered, double-deck buses – the largest of its kind in the world.

Roadgas marketing director Becky Rix said: “Consumers are very engaged with what’s happening to their environment and regardless of which business or industry you’re in, you need to consider your impact.

“The time has come for us to look at how we can limit our carbon footprint because we have to deliver tomorrow for the next generation.

“The Sustainable East Midlands campaign is a great initiative and will help raise awareness of how all businesses can take small steps to manage their impact because every step matters.

“As a region, the East Midlands is well-placed to drive a green recovery and maintain the focus on sustainability.”

Bloc Digital, based in Derby, is a multi-discipline tech studio supporting industry through cutting-edge digital visualisation and immersive technology, delivering augmented reality, virtual reality, web, mobile and IoT solutions across industry and manufacturing.

Keith Cox, director of Bloc Digital, said: “Our region is an established home for cutting-edge technology and innovation. The Sustainable East Midlands campaign is an exciting and forward-thinking opportunity to bring our collective expertise and insights to translate these advancements into real industry solutions, which place sustainability and resilience at the heart of business growth.

“Harnessing virtual and augmented technologies within operations removes geographical and physical barriers and reduces the need for travel. By capturing and visualising real-time data to improve communication and visualisation of operations, we can help businesses work smarter, use resources more efficiently and reduce their carbon footprint.”

Iain McKenzie, group operating officer at Leicester-based wealth management firm Mattioli Woods, added: "Sustainability is a key priority for Mattioli Woods and we are working towards putting in place an environmental vision and strategy. 

"We have a responsibility to support our expansion by operating in a sustainable manner. The modern design and construction methods used in our Leicester office means that we are harnessing the latest technology to support our environmental aims and, while this is a major contributor in itself, we recognise that smaller changes to how we do things can make incremental contributions.

"We are also exploring how we can offer our clients access to bespoke 'ESG responsible' investment propositions, with a view to adding such an option in the coming year."

For more information about Sustainable East Midlands, visit www.emc-dnl.co.uk/sustainability.

The East Midlands Energy Summit will be delivered via the online platform GoToWebinar on Thursday 19 November from 9.30am to 11.45am, and is free to both members and non-members of the Chamber. To book a place, click here.

The November issue of the Chamber’s Business Network magazine is a special sustainability edition, which features a mission statement by the Chamber and an in-depth look at the University of Derby’s research data.

The full research paper by Derby Business School can be viewed here.