The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called on the government to offer financial support to small businesses that want to go green.
According to the FSB, smaller companies risk going into the red if there is no assistance to make environmental schemes economically viable.
John Walker, national chairman of the FSB, said small businesses will have to go green if the nation as a whole is to reach the government target of cutting carbon emissions 20 per cent by 2010.
“The government must ensure 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,” he said. “We urge the government to harness this potential when it publishes its energy bill, expected later this Parliament.”
It was imperative economically that the UK move to a low-carbon economy, he added, and that required the right lead from the state – especially if economic growth was to be delivered as well.
The FSB said the interest-free loan scheme for small businesses should be expanded and incentives offered for companies to green their buildings. Incentives should be offered to banks, energy firms or construction companies to pay upfront for energy-efficiency upgrades, it said.
So-called pay-as-you-save repayments should be linked to energy bills for the building, so tenants would help pay for the upgrade costs. Owners of the worst-rated buildings should be encouraged to improve, and business rate increases should be waived for those that go green, the FSB said.
The FSB has released a report on its suggestions, Making sense of going green – small businesses and low-carbon economy. It also suggests promoting the interoperability of smart meters, a more ambitious tariff scheme, and better research and development support.
Mike Childs, head of climate at green lobby group Friends of the Earth, welcomed the report.
“As this report sets out, small businesses have much to gain from cutting their emissions – insulating offices and producing clean energy will save thousands on fuel bills, and there will be plenty of new job opportunities as loft laggers, roofers and technicians are needed to improve the UK's woefully inefficient buildings,” Childs said.
He said that increasing zero-interest loans and having more ambitious incentives for green business energy were helpful, although companies also need certainty about what will be expected of them in the years ahead.
“This means getting regulations and taxation right,” Childs added. “The government's immediate priority should be to set all areas of their own local carbon budgets, encouraging councils and businesses to work together to cut emissions, save energy and transform the places in which we live and work.”
According to the government-sponsored Carbon Trust, energy-efficiency measures could save £3.6bn and reduce the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions by 29 million tonnes a year.
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