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What is carbon footprinting, and why is it important for SMEs?

Carbon footprinting is becoming more and more commonplace – not just in science journals, policy papers and corporate agendas, but its also appearing in our day to day experiences as individuals - flights, laptops, eating meet vs being vegetarian for example.

What is carbon footprinting?

What is carbon footprinting?

But what exactly does it mean? What is the carbon footprint of your business? A carbon footprint is the total amount of carbon dioxide (and typically includes other Greenhouse Gases in “carbon dioxide equivalents”) produced by your business’ actions that are released back into the atmosphere. In effect, carbon footprinting measures how much your services or products are contributing to climate change.

Why does your SME's carbon footprint matter?

Why should you care about your business’ carbon footprint? Let's have a look at some stats.

Global temperatures are anticipated to rise by 2.4°C (COP26, 2021) by 2100, higher than the safe limit of 1.5°C (IPCC, 2021).

UK SMEs make up 99.9% of all UK businesses and contribute 52% of GDP from UK businesses, so they are crucial in realizing the UK's 2050 net-zero target. And about half of the UK’s business sector emissions are from SMEs. The British Business Bank poll of 1200 SMEs revealed that 76% of the SMEs in the UK have no decarbonization strategy, and only 3% of businesses measured their carbon footprints in the last five years. Moreover, 43% mentioned that they have not heard much about the Government’s 2050 net-zero targets. Lack of knowledge is one barrier to decarbonization among SMEs. This will also adversely impact the government’s 2050 commitment to net-zero. Cost was also cited as a major challenge hampering their decarbonization efforts.

UK SME carbon impact greenhouse gases
Source: UK Gov 2021, British Business Bank poll 2021

Currently, the SME sector employs 60% of the total UK workforce and contribute to the economy and generates £2.2 trillion of revenue; this important sector must be enabled to take steps to reduce their carbon footprint. And as a sector with so many people working in it, owners and employees want their businesses to be more closely aligned to their values. In order to meet our national and international commitments to UK decarbonisation, we need to support the SME sector to make sustainable changes. Carbon footprint reduction can help SMEs save £400 million as reduced carbon emissions are synonymous with reduced energy costs.

Measuring their carbon footprints – both direct and across their value chains - and taking remedial actions are important to combat global climate change. Moreover, if SMEs do not increase their decarbonization efforts, the UK’s GDP in 2050 could fall short of the net-zero forecast by 2% leading to a cost of £51.5B a year.

Can SMEs grow and be green?

Want to get started?

Want to get started? Try our free Scope 1 and 2 calculator here, or get in touch to find out more about your full value chain impacts by emailing

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