Hannah Callingham of ETL discusses the government changes to come out of COP26 and how these will affect small businesses involved in supply chains for the NHS or healthcare and life science industries
Following COP26, SMEs supplying healthcare and life sciences throughout the UK should be addressing the potentially-sizable task of reducing their carbon emissions in order to achieve the goal of ‘climate-resilient, low-carbon, sustainable health systems’.
SMEs make up 99% of firms in the UK, and are essential to delivering a fair, distributed ‘transition’ to net-zero emissions because they generate employment, economic prosperity, innovation, and social cohesion, especially in ‘left behind’ regions, and because combined they contribute a large proportion of the UK’s emissions.
All SMEs now need to meet the legal requirement of net-zero emissions by 2050.
A significant part of this will be through their investors, just as the finance sector was addressed at COP26 resulting in the requirement that investments must align with net-zero goals.
To achieve net zero, SMEs, and their investors who are now also bound by COP26 agreements, require better access to the business, financial, and legal advice they need to reach net zero; and to be persuaded of the commercial importance of adapting and the negative consequences of not doing so.
To achieve net zero, SMEs, and their investors need to be persuaded of the commercial importance of adapting and the negative consequences of not doing so
SMEs who are supplying to the public sector and selling their products and services to the NHS offer the public sector the means to create innovative solutions to meet their core priorities and challenges.
Whether it’s addressing the backlog, or changing the way care is delivered throughout the community; the NHS must understand that each and every move also has to help the sector reach net zero.
As well as this, COP26 highlighted the need to create resilient healthcare systems that will be able to withstand evolving needs of the population as the climate changes – something SMEs and suppliers must keep in mind when offering solutions.
SMEs and innovation have a key role to play within the NHS, not just from a healthcare and sciences perspective, but in terms of better use of resources, saving time and energy, and increasing efficiencies.
The NHS has adopted a multi-year plan to become the world’s first net-zero carbon national health system – by 2040 for the emissions they directly control, and by 2045 for the emissions they influence.
And this has driven a huge acceleration in efforts and initiatives being implemented by NHS organisations, whereby start-up innovators pilot projects with one or two NHS trusts and quickly have a list of trusts who have registered interest for these technologies.
Whether it’s addressing the backlog, or changing the way care is delivered throughout the community; the NHS must understand that each and every move also has to help the sector reach net zero
Similar to private organisations, there is competition among public organisations to be the best and lead the way through this diverse sustainability agenda.
And, from April next year social value and sustainability credentials are becoming mandatory within procurement evaluations and weightings.
This, combined with regional collaboration within Integrated Care Systems, will further drive up the demand for new technologies and ways of working – which, of course, has been a big change for all of us coming out of the pandemic.
COP26 has also shown the value of committing to change such as WSP’s ‘Pledge to Net Zero’, where SMEs sign up to ensure that GHG targets are in line with 1.5°C.
Adapting to change, and taking the lead is in the DNA of SMEs up and down the country. And SMEs can have a powerful impact on their own operations, supply chains, and with their clients, as they support them on their journey to net zero.
Having worked with a number of SMEs in the public sector, consultancies like ETL have adopted an approach to ensure sustainability is integrated with SME ventures.
SMEs are likely to be ahead of the curve when considering sustainability but as a first step, will need to understand their emissions’ sources and impact in order to measure reduction progress going forward.
Next, a strategy will need to be planned, including the actions and timeframes necessary, as well as the specific people within the business who will carry these out.
When it comes to doing business, being low or zero carbon is quickly becoming a requirement rather than a choice and those ahead of the curve will become overwhelmed with opportunities
And, after a strategy has been formed, everyone from the board to operations should be informed of it so that all employees understand the work to be undertaken to reach this goal.
It is also important to highlight the influence of products or services to the consumer, particularly when considering their own net-zero goal.
Once the tools, resources, and management necessary have been identified, sustainability can be integrated and progress made toward decarbonisation.
Achieving net zero not only benefits the planet, but also works to improve business.
When it comes to doing business, being low or zero carbon is quickly becoming a requirement rather than a choice and those ahead of the curve will become overwhelmed with opportunities.