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Engaging small businesses: a sustainable route to change. Making the case that action on climate change is good for business and the planet.



All around the world, more people work in small, often micro-businesses, than in any other type of organization. They are a major and sustainable route to action on climate change.

Up untill now this route has largely been ignored or regarded as too difficult.

With the growth of social media, millions of small businesses are active on sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Weibo. They seek contact with existing and potential customers, network with other small businesses and share and find good practice. This opens up an excellent route to attract their interest, share what other small businesses are doing and offer practical, implementable advice on adapting to, and reducing, climate change.

@inbiz4good is a digital research and campaign network run by small business for small business with a growing global reach. It runs virtual summits, webinars and social media campaigns to highlight the contribution made by small businesses to the economy, the wider community and the environment. If you like it is the small business equivalent of Plan B. The network is funded by Wilson Sherriff, a small business from its profits.

The proposal is that @inbiz4good develops a program of action aimed a small businesses.

This would include:

  • co-creation of the campaign with the existing @inbiz4good network
  • a series of global virtual summits bringing together small businesses and climate change experts and groups to support small businesses to be more active. The virtual summit would showcase small businesses who have adopted new approaches to climate change that can be adopted easily
  • global and regional webinars sharing insights between small businesses
  • a think tank bringing together small business experts, policy advisors and climate change experts to consider incentives that would impact attitudes and action on climate change
  • surveys and focus groups to identify changes in behavioural norms


This proposal has the support of the Organisation for Responsible Business.

Category of the action

Changing public perceptions on climate change

What actions do you propose?

The inBiz4good program of action will promote and support a number of social actions that will encourage small businesses to take physical action that will have a direct impact on climate change. The first four are part of the core program, the remaining two will develop as the initiative gathers momentum:

  1. understanding existing behavioral norms - anecdotally and supported by some research it is clear that at present many small business owners regard action on climate change as complex, costly or out of the reach of small business. We want to address this perception head on. First, through work with small business to find out more about existing behavioral norms and what prompts action and what hinders it. We will address in particular the perception among many small businesses that adaptations are too expensive for them to consider. This will lead to new insight into how to support behavior change by owners and staff in small businesses that will be useful to governments and agencies supporting small business and action on climate change.
  2. influencing behavioral norms - small businesses are influenced by other small business. At present, much of the advice, publicity and press coverage around action on climate change is directed at large and often very large businesses. We want to make a change to that by providing advice, publicity and media coverage that focuses on small businesses acting on climate change. In particular, we will create a suite of podcasts and videocasts interviewing small business owners who have taken action on climate change. Our interviews will feature small businesses taking a small step by step approach to climate change. Our focus will be on action that is easily implementable and not too costly to put into practice. We will use the inBiz4good website and digital media, including the large number of 'business hours' on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to share the interviews and support material. The pod- and video- casts will be supported by electronic resources and social media networking to stimulate action.
  3. Commitment to action - we will work with members of our network and the Organisation for Responsible Business to identify ways of encouraging and supporting action by small businesses. Promoting their business through the pod- and video-casts described above is one way. We will also at an endorsement or pledge scheme that encourages and rewards action. We know that small businesses are influenced by awards and by programs that attract customers and will work with organizations running existing schemes and programs to find out what would work best. We will organize a 'small business action on climate change' Twitter hour on a weekly or monthly basis, endorsement campaigns on Facebook, webinars and virtual summits to encourage participation and action.
  4. Small business supporting small business - A neglected approach to promoting action is through the small business to small business market. Most small businesses as well as being suppliers to big business are also suppliers to other small businesses and some work exclusively in the small business market. We believe this has huge potential for stimulating action at national level and also internationally. Because it is a new area, it is not yet clear what the best way of making use of this potential is, the actions identified above will help. We will also ask our small business network for their ideas.
  5. Economic incentives for change - it is not currently clear what economic incentives are most likely to influence positive change among small businesses. Part of our action program will be to work with members of the network to identify these, which might be tax credits or small grants.
  6. Policies at national and international level - there are a number of policy initiatives at national and international level that support and stimulate action by small businesses e.g. the new CSR law in India, EU support for action by small businesses and UK government support for CSR. There are similar initiatives in North America. All of these are relatively new and broadly focused rather than specifically on climate change adaptation. We will work with policy makers and small business to identify the lessons learned from these initiatives that would be useful in other parts of the world.


How do we know these proposals will result in social action? The proposals above have worked in other complementary areas of social action - for example, encouraging environmentally friendly products and healthy living schemes. While we are moving into new territory, we will build our initiatives on what has been shown to work in other areas and we will work closely with small businesses to design and deliver what works for them.

Who will take these actions?

Key actors are:

  • inBiz4good a digital network supported by Wilson Sherriff, a small business based in the UK. InBiz4Good already has a large and growing social media presence, organising virtual summits and social media events aimed at small businesses doing good and staying in business for good. InBiz4Good will support and organise the program
  • supporters of the @inbiz4good, Organisation for Responsible Business and Wilson Sherriff networks. These are small businesses already engaged in action to promote social good. They will play a key role in co-creating the program and promoting it
  • small business owners and their staff who are the people taking action
  • local communities - small businesses already play a significant role in their local communities providing employment, support for good causes and community organisations. As the program develops we expect to see small businesses supporting action on climate change in their local communities.
  • organisations supporting small businesses who play a key role publicising the campaign and encouraging small businesses to take action
  • climate change experts who will play a role as advisors on the effectiveness of different actions
  • government departments and policy advisors who support the program and who offer advice on policies and incentives that might stimulate further action

Where will these actions be taken?

Our existing network has supporters in the European Union, North America, Asia, particularly India and some support in Africa particularly Nigeria. We have partners in these countries wanting to increase their local activity.

We would aim to focus on those locations in the first instance three years and grow more broadly in later phases.

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

This is very hard to quantify but to give one example, currently in the European Union about 90% of small businesses do not actively manage their waste disposal and are contributing significantly to landfill and related emissions.

Action to date which has reduced emissions include a Zero Waste campaign in Scotland specifically encouraging the responsible recycling of waste products; a printing company in the UK who has been featured by @inbiz4good now has zero waste, including food waste and has designed its products to avoid waste, and over a third of existing supporters of @inbiz4good produce products that are recyled and upcycled. The emissions reduced through just this one set of actions is substantial.

What are other key benefits?

Key benefits are:

  • greater action by the millions of small businesses on climate change including the reduction in waste, reduction in emissions and the growth in the use of recycling, upcycling and the circular economy
  • once engaged small businesses are more flexible and innovative than their larger peers and therefore there will also be an increase in innovative ways of handling climate change
  • small businesses have close connections to their local community providing jobs for often marginalised people, supporting charities and enterprises and for community activities. Engaging with them will also have an impact on the wider public and their attitudes to climate change.

What are the proposal’s costs?

There are some economic costs when small businesses first take action e.g. in reorganising processes and training staff. However, the economic benefits outweigh those set up costs. Research cited by the UK Federation of Small Businesses shows that when wasted energy and wasted labour are included, the true price of waste management for businesses is five to 20 times higher than simply the costs of disposal, typically four per cent of the turnover of a business. Set up costs of new initiatives are in comparison as small proportion of turnover typically less than 1%.

Time line

Short term actions - raising awareness of potential actions and changing mindsets and perceptions, the leading edge 10% of small businesses take action on climate change

Medium term actions - attitudes among small business owners to taking action on climate change have radically changed with most small businesses taking action as part of their overall business strategy. 50% of small business integrate recycling and upcycling into their business processes and manage zero waste programmes

Long term actions - radically reformed perceptions of the business responsibility for minimizing their effect on the environment. This becomes part of business as usual.

Related proposals

Climate change stories - could also include stories of how small businesses have dealt with climate change

Climate leave - this is something small businesses may wish to support

Tipping Point Action - small businesses could get involved in the visioning initiatives




Climate change and small businesses

FSB paper on waste management

US small business views on climate change via Business Intelligence