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SMEs could be a major force to tackle climate change, research suggests

Green smes pic Professor Javed Hussain from Birmingham City University hosted a groundbreaking conference examining the financing of green innovative SMEs in Birmingham and the West Midlands.

The conference highlighted the need to support innovative small businesses to tackle the climate emergency and revealed that access to finance is a key barrier to early-stage green SMEs who have the potential to develop low-carbon innovations across a wide range of sectors. The event, which took place on the 29 September at Birmingham City University, gathered over 60 policymakers, practitioners, enterprises and academics to tackle the issue of green SME financing.

Meeting the demands of UK green initiatives

The conference follows the recent UK Government Green Finance Strategy (July 2019), promoting a ‘sustainable and resilient economy’ through investment in green technologies, services and related infrastructure. SMEs are a key ingredient in realising this strategy, given that small to medium size enterprises make up 99.3% of all private sector business in the UK (2018). One of the main recommendations of the conference was to address public policy regarding finance to empower these SMEs to tackle climate change.

Birmingham is one of the first UK cities to declare a City Centre clean air zone by 2020. Delivering such a rapid transition has massive repercussions for SMEs and requires not only financial support but also a comprehensive planning strategy to enable change.

Recommendations for a greener future

The conference presentations and debate aimed to produce recommendations on how to support SMEs to combat the climate emergency. Among these recommendations, conference delegates pointed out that clear strategic policy needs to be in place at local, regional and national levels, which prioritises the support of innovative green SMEs and their market needs. To achieve this, delegates stated that researcher and professional services have a key role to play in informing policy changes to create an effective ecosystem for green SMEs.

The conference was organised in collaboration with Middlesex University and the Institute for Small Business Entrepreneurship, with support from the Economic and Social Research Council.