Carbon Neutral Tenders – A New Focus For SMEs?

As more emphasis is placed on businesses of all sizes to consider the wider environmental impact of their activities, many are left confused about how to align their businesses to best practice. After COP26, several governmental commitments were made with the aim of drastically reducing the emissions of methane and carbon throughout the UK, and an onus has now been placed on individual businesses to take responsibility for achieving these new targets. However, many organisations, particularly SMEs, are left wondering how these commitments could affect both the day to day running of their businesses and their ability to win more work through tendering in the future.

Recent research findings indicate confusion for vast majority of SMEs

A survey conducted in October 2021 by the British Chambers of Commerce has found that almost 90% of SMEs are feeling confused by new initiatives to cut emissions and would not consider measuring their carbon footprint a main priority in the wake of the pandemic. With many large companies able to invest heavily in new and innovative solutions to reduce their carbon footprints, a huge proportion of the reported 5.6million UK-based SMEs feel the barriers to alter their business practices to be more sustainable are just too high.

When it comes to beginning the process of carbon reduction, many businesses look at their strategy, developing methods to reduce emissions and implement sustainability as a driving factor in their daily practices. This is something which is much more widely reported within larger firms; around 27% have set specific carbon reduction targets as opposed to just 9% of microbusinesses. 

High upfront adaptation costs and lack of available funds made up 64% of the reported barriers when SMEs looked to consider their strategies towards carbon neutrality.

How small changes can have a big impact on your business 

Whilst implementing large and costly changes such as purchasing new equipment or vehicles may appear out of reach for many businesses, smaller daily alterations to habits can also have a huge impact. Focusing on areas such as plastic reduction, responsible sourcing of materials and a clear and strict recycling policy can all positively impact carbon footprint reduction.

Switching to energy efficient lightbulbs, introducing smart meters or turning off plugs when equipment is not in use are just some of the many small, incremental changes which are demonstrable ways of reducing carbon footprints and working towards a carbon neutral strategy. Looking at those who supply your business and their green credentials is also a proven way to improve sustainability within your supply chain.

Although the pandemic has indeed created many new issues for businesses, one area which has been widely praised is the rise of flexible working. As lockdowns were enforced, many organisations were forced to pivot to home working. With the return to offices and professional spaces on the increase, businesses are now taking a serious look at flexible working, not only as a method for greater wellbeing within the workforce, but as a tangible way to reduce travel and the carbon emissions associated with it.

Businesses can also turn to offsetting to reduce their carbon emissions and indicate their willingness to engage upon issues surrounding the environment. Supporting projects such as re-forestry schemes can also help demonstrate a commitment to positive environmental impact.

Carbon neutrality in tendering

So what do the government commitments and the quest for carbon neutrality mean when it comes to seeking work through tendering? With the UK government calling on SMEs to lead the charge and pledge to reach net zero by 2050 or sooner, we expect to see a higher emphasis still placed upon these areas when tendering for work, particularly within the public sector.

We have seen several changes within tenders over the past few years which indicate that a supplier’s approach to reducing their environmental impacts are key factors when awarding work. Certifications such as ISO14001 (Environmental Management) are routinely seen as key markers for a suppliers commitment to positive environmental practices and there are several questions that directly address environmental breaches as grounds for mandatory exclusion.

In addition to this, many tenders will now place specific importance when scoring on environmental strategies as a critical part of a supplier’s corporate social responsibility. Demonstrating the many ways a business takes the issue of carbon neutrality seriously can gain valuable points when tendering, however we understand this can be a particularly complex area for SMEs to navigate.

How can Thornton & Lowe provide support?

Whilst each tender is different and the requirements vary dramatically, there are several ways that Thornton & Lowe can support your business to ensure you are in the best position to win work.

We offer expert bid writing and big training services, in order to support on both the application forms and upskilling your team to ensure they are ready to bid successfully. Equipping yourself and your team with key knowledge on how to showcase your environmental credentials will ensure you approach all new tenders with clarity and confidence moving forward.

To this end, we offer detailed bidding masterclasses, including a Bidding for Beginners course and a 2 Day Bid and Tender Writing Masterclass. Both of these courses have been developed around industry best practice and direct input from procurement teams, creating a rounded learning approach.

Our team of highly experienced bid writers can assist you to complete tenders but also to understand where you may be able to add value to your offering. Highlighting areas which may require improvement and simple ways to maximise your environmental strategy can bring new ideas to the fore and ensure your business remains competitive in the fast paced and ever changing tendering climate.

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