Talia Goldman, ESG Manager at Colpac and Emma Hird, ESG, Head of Carbon Services at Inspired PLC joined other industry leaders at Sustainability LIVE London 2023.
The pair’s fireside chat — titled Small but mighty, How SMEs Can Accelerate their Journey to Net Zero — focused on Net Zero and sustainable manufacturing for SMEs, looking at how small and medium enterprises can explore practical strategies and approaches to help achieve sustainability goals.
Talia Goldman, ESG Manager, Colpac
Tahlia is the ESG Manager at Colpac, an award-winning British designer and manufacturer of innovative food packaging solutions. Talia is responsible for delivering multiple strategic projects to strengthen the Company's ESG proposition.
This includes: the Company's first carbon footprint calculation and developing a net zero strategy, deforestation-free supply chains, sustainability strategies, environmental ethics management, and wellbeing.
She looks to ensure the business operates at the cutting edge of policy and legislation, enabling Colpac to minimise its impact on nature, the environment and deforestation, and maximise social value in supply chains, compliance standards and employee wellbeing.
Emma Hird, ESG, Head of Carbon Services, Inspired PLC
Emma has been working in the energy industry for approximately 10 years and has worked on a range of research and compliance service provision in carbon reporting during this time. Emma holds responsibility for both developing and delivering compliance services for Inspired PLC’s clients associated with SECR, ESOS, and other reporting schemes. Her main focus is measuring Scope 1 and 2 emissions and utilising this information to support further carbon footprinting and net-zero services provided by Inspired PLC.
Emma is also an accredited ESOS Lead Assessor, and has significant training and experience in energy auditing and analysis, and has provided major businesses with fully managed energy and compliance programmes. She has published articles on energy management in leading industry magazines and has achieved significant levels of savings for various clients through programmes of data analysis and energy consumption surveys.
Why is it essential for SMEs to do their bit, in terms of sustainability and achieving net zero?
“The focus is very much on the large businesses in the game with legislation, and SMEs simply do not get a look in. But we hit so much of the market, so many emissions and consumption across the board in the operating space,” shared Hird.
“SMEs actually form 99% of the business operations, with large businesses only forming that 1%. Yet all of our focus towards net zero, all of our focus towards the legislative schemes that make people aware of the focus to net zero and getting there actually hit that 1%.
“How are we going to get to net zero if we don't focus on that 99% as well?”
“Exactly — the vast majority of businesses are SMEs. Obviously we do need our larger businesses to make that bold and significant change, make that step forward, show that leadership. But there is a huge opportunity for businesses of all sizes to show leadership within their own sectors, and just think of that 99% together as an incredible tour de force, leadership, and for actual real world change when it comes to the climate and biodiversity crisis — and every crisis in between that as well,” added Goldman.
“We have to take that proactive step forward as SMEs. It might mean we can’t do as much as larger companies because we have to work with a lot less, but every little incremental step makes such a difference.
“Also for us it's become a complete commercial no brainer. We don't have a choice but to engage in net zero because we want to compete with our larger competitors, because we want to make that change. We fundamentally believe in business as a powerful force for good to be able to move beyond governments in so many ways.
“I always ask this fundamentally, why should we leave that to big businesses to do that when we can make so much change together?”
What are the challenges for SMEs in sustainability?
“When we talk about net zero programs, obviously there's a lot of challenges facing us, but also lots of opportunities and lots of challenges that we face alongside large businesses too. So things like supply chain transparency and traceability, getting data, it's hard for everyone,” says Goldman.
“But I think there is this unique position of SMEs in that respect where cost and resources are massive, but you know, particular lots of technology out there, lots of different solutions are out there. But a lot of the time they're built for large companies and they have the price tag to match and we can't do that. I think also one that I talk to Emma and her team about a lot and I get writing heads up about is this pressure for knowledge and the pressure on SMEs and on sustainability managers within US needs to know to have very specialist knowledge and to know what to do and how to do it.”
The most challenging areas for SMEs in sustainability are:
- Pressure for specialist knowledge necessity
The pair believe that many of these things can be combated through strong, well-suited partnerships and passionate sustainability champions heading up the strategies.
“You need that one person to sort of take that leap and get over that initial hump,” says Goldman, who believes the benefits weigh out the challenges.
“It's not just about carbon emissions, it's also about all of the other ways you operate as a business and using net zero as a new way of viewing your current operations. A lot of the things that we talk about in terms of our strategy aren't just there to cut savings, it's also logistics — let's save money and save carbon. But we would never have looked at it in that way before we started this journey.”
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