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Running a business

Practical support to help your business go green

By Team Starling

As the climate emergency gathers pace, governments have responded by pledging to dramatically cut carbon emissions.

In line with many other countries, the British government wants the UK to reach net zero* emissions by 2050. Meeting this ambitious target demands action from everyone, from government and multinationals to small business and households.

But going green isn’t just good for the environment. It makes good business sense, too.

What are the business benefits?

Going green can be great for business. Sustainable companies have a competitive edge, helping them attract customers who care about climate change. A recent survey by Deloitte showed that 32% of consumers were “highly engaged” with adopting a more sustainable lifestyle, while 28% had stopped buying certain products due to ethical or environmental concerns.

It can also help lower your running costs. According to CDP, a charity that helps companies assess their environmental impact, switching to LED lightbulbs can pay for itself after just one year, while most businesses see payback four years after insulating buildings.

Perhaps most importantly, going green will also future-proof your business, so you can embrace net zero and get ready for the changes it will entail. For example, the government has stated there will be a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030.

Where can businesses get help to support action?

The government provides a range of financial support and advice to help businesses go green. Here are some of the schemes on offer:

Powering your electric vehicle (EV): Workplace Charging Scheme

The upfront cost of switching company vehicles and fleets to low or no emission versions can be daunting, especially if you don’t have the right infrastructure. This voucher scheme can help with that.

It covers up to 75% of the purchase and installation costs of electric vehicle charge points (inclusive of VAT) for eligible businesses, up to a maximum of £350 per socket and 40 charging points across all sites per person.

Any registered business can apply, but you’ll need to meet both applicant and site eligibility criteria. For example, you’ll need to declare either a need for EV charging equipment or an intent to encourage take up among staff.

Buying a low-emission vehicle: Plug-in Grant

This pays for up to 35% of the cost of buying selected low-emissions vans, worth up to a maximum of £2,500 for a small van or up to £5,000 for large vans. The grant is given to the dealer, who includes it in the price; anyone and any sized business can benefit from the discount, you just need to make sure you’re buying an eligible vehicle to benefit from the discount. The scheme, which was extended in March, is set to end spring 2024.

Tax relief

You might be able to claim enhanced capital allowances on certain energy-saving equipment, such as zero-emission goods vehicles and machinery for hydrogen refuelling equipment. Claim through your self assessment, partnership or company tax return.

Cycle to Work Scheme

Already adopted by around 50,000 companies -- including Starling -- this popular salary sacrifice scheme is open to any size business. It allows your team to save money buying or hiring a bike, cut their own emissions and get healthier. It also means that employers can make savings on National Insurance contributions.

Local and national support

You can search for dedicated local support (as well as business case studies) through the British Business Bank, which offers lots of great practical advice on going green. On a national and more general level, use the government’s Business Finance and Support Finder to see what grants your company may be eligible for, or use a free grant search service such as GrantsOnline.

Further help

The SME Climate Hub UK is a dedicated portal to help, advise and support businesses go green. It was set up by partners including the United Nations and International Chamber of Commerce. The international version of the climate hub site includes this emissions calculator.

The prospect of transforming your company into a sustainable business with net-zero carbon emissions can be daunting. But support, including financial help, is available -- and could see your business become not only greener, but stronger, too.

*Net zero means that the UK’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would be equal to or less than the emissions the UK removed from the environment. This can be achieved by a combination of emission reduction and emission removal (definition used by the government Office for National Statistics).

This article is intended as general information only and does not constitute advice in any way. For any specific questions, you may want to consult your legal advisor or accountant.

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