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Why you need to be engaged in Green Great Britain Week

Does going green make business sense?

From the backlash against single-use plastic, following the BBC's Blue Planet II documentary, to the organic movement, emissions targets and demands for more sustainability, the impact of business on the environment remains a hot topic. 

Can small businesses make environmentally friendly and ethically aware policies part of their business strategies – without it costing too much time and money? 

Robert Rose, who along with his brother Paul won the 2018 FSB Ethical-Green Business of the Year Award, for their pioneering organic smallholding Rosewood Farm, says businesses thinking of going green must do their homework and ensure they have the backing of their customers. "They have to be prepared to support you in order for it to work,” he says. 

"With renewable energy, it's more expensive than going for the cheapest option, but if the cheapest option puts off your customers, you are dead in the water." 

Robert and Paul have a herd of about 150 Dexter cattle - a small breed ideally suited for grazing in the Lower Derwent Valley national nature reserve in Yorkshire.  

While heavier cows would churn up the wetlands grasses and wildflowers, the Dexters can graze for longer without causing damage. The brothers have their own ethical "manifesto", which includes commitments not to use pesticides and fungicides, using renewable energy and ensuring the cows are 100% grass fed. The farm opened for business in 2003. 

"Originally people thought we were complete oddballs! But just the fact we have gone ahead and done it and shown that it can work is starting to have an influence on other farms," he said. 

"Farmers are on the front line of the environment and wildlife - they want to supply that market and help it. The challenge has always been to get enough people to care about it to allow farmers to change." 

Rosewood Farm used to be better known in London than at home in Yorkshire, due to the city’s “large customer base actively looking for more environmentally friendly produce". 

But Robert says that has changed and customers all over the country are more switched on to the environmental agenda: "Just little things, like Blue Planet with David Attenborough, somebody influential saying the right things can really drive change." 

His is just one of a growing number of small businesses whose green credentials are winning them favour with environmentally minded customers. 

Others shortlisted for the 2018 awards ranged from ethical fashion business Maykher in Wales, to the renewable-energy-powered Highland Farm Cottages in Scotland and organic skincare company Made for Life, based in south-west England. 

The Guardian reported last year that growth in green business was expected to outstrip other sectors of the economy and that the low-carbon economy employs at least 432,000 people, with a turnover of more than £77bn in 2015.  

Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry said this week that the "unprecedented global transformation to a low carbon economy" brought enormous economic opportunities.

"We want the UK to continue to be a leader in this global transition, and a leading destination for clean investment. Since 1990 the UK has cut emissions by more than 40%, while growing our economy by more than two-thirds, the best performance in the G7." 

For small businesses which are not on the "front line" of the environment - cutting energy use and waste can save money, reduce their environmental impact and raise their profile. 

From switching lightbulbs and turning down the office thermostat to ditching the throwaway coffee cups and using green cleaning products, it doesn't have to involve a huge outlay. 

An international study from Unilever last year suggested a third of consumers were choosing to buy from brands based on their social and environmental impact. Laura Timlin, director at sustainability consultancy The Carbon Trust, said: “The business case for going green has never been more compelling. With the government now implementing its Clean Growth Strategy, the direction of travel for the UK economy is clear.  

“The direct costs for a company related to inefficient resource use are going to keep increasing, especially with carbon emissions and waste. At the same time the cost of the solutions keeps falling.” 

"At the moment the most popular opportunity we are seeing being taken up by small businesses is lighting upgrades, which is something almost any type of company can benefit from doing.  

“This is because the technology behind LED lighting has rapidly improved in quality and dropped in price over the past few years, so that returns on investment are often available in as little as two years when upgrading from an older technology. However, there are plenty of other opportunities out there depending on your sector.” 

The Carbon Trust’s Green Business Fund has free guides for businesses that want to know more about going green. 

Entries for the 2019 FSB Ethical-Green Business of the Year award opened in August for firms with successful ethical, socially responsible or green practices which have improved their businesses.

This week is Green Great Britain Week, and this year the focus is on celebrating UK leadership on climate change, marking the 10-year anniversary of the Climate Change Act as well as looking at green finance and financing the low-carbon economy. This will set out the role of the finance sector in delivering clean growth. The initiative also highlights business opportunities which come with clean growth as well as a focus on the actions businesses can take on climate change.

FSB are searching ethical, socially responsible and green businesses to put themselves forward to be recognised as Ethical – Green Business of the Year at the FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards for 2019. Nominations are open now, visit to find out more and to enter: