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We hate to spread bad news, but it looks as though businesses will continue to operate in a tough economic climate in 2023. Your current business skills of resilience, adaptation and agility will prove invaluable to you over the coming months.

Maintaining sustainable growth in this financial environment will be a challenge but the route to success may actually be in sustainability and the environment. According to Experian, these climate concerns will factor into the top three trend leaders for small businesses in 2023. They are:

·      Affordable sustainability

·      Environmental change governance

·      Green supply chains

One of the biggest motivations behind this is consumer behaviour. As customers we are increasingly looking toward businesses that are taking active steps towards Net Zero and acting on climate change - the pressure to act has increased. This pressure of course comes with costs that you may be unprepared for right now.

To explore how your business can start, or continue, making significant changes in its environmental impact, whilst surviving and thriving in a cost-of-living crisis, we handed over to Professor Aaron Gillich, Professor of Building Decarbonisation at London South Bank University’s (LSBU) School of the Built Environment and Architecture, and Director of the BSRIA LSBU Net Zero Building Centre (NZBC).

Aaron has worked for the past 15 years across industry, academia, and government. He has a BEng in Aerospace Engineering, an MSc in Astronomy and Physics, and a PhD in Energy Policy.  His research centres on the links between technical and policy solutions to decarbonising existing buildings. He has led a number of research and demonstration projects for low carbon innovations in heat pumps and heat networks.  His interests also include retrofit programme design and market transformation strategy.

He is currently working with South Bank Innovation’s research team and part of the delivery for immersive short courses designed to deliver actionable skills across the Built Environment. You can read Aaron's Net Zero Carbon Buildings Topic Guide here.

We hope Aaron’s unique insight opens up the conversation for you.

4 Simple Steps to Act on Climate and Costs

By Professor Aaron Gillich

The UK has a target to create a net zero economy by 2050. To meet this, every single home and business will have to make significant changes in the coming decades.  Research tells us that nearly all UK residents are concerned about climate change and want to act, but the current energy and cost of living crises makes this more challenging than ever.

So how can we act together on climate change and address the urgent need to reduce costs in the short term for 2023?

1.      Create a long-term plan

First, we need to take stock of our situation and make along-term plan. Most experts believe that energy costs will remain high for at least the next few years.  We need actions now that also help protect against future energy crises and climate change.  Identify the most urgent issues that you face in 2023 and set out ideas to address these as part of a longer-term plan of investments.


2.      Reduce demand

The first and most critical element of this plan should be reducing energy demand.  The most future-proof way to save on energy bills is to reduce the amount of energy you need in the first place.  This should start with simple things like adjusting controls and schedules to only use energy where you really need it.

Next focus on operational improvements with low capital costs such as adjusting flow rates, fabric improvements, or reducing air leakage.

Finally, your long-term plan should examine where larger investments in energy efficiency can deliver the greatest value. This may mean having to …


3.      Think about life after gas

Likely the single biggest decision you will make in your home or business’ transition to net zero is about how and when you stop using gas for heating.

The gas grid in its current form will need to end for the UK to deliver its net zero future. There are no announced timescales, but this transition is likely to be in the mid-2030s. This means that many gas using appliances installed today could even outlive the gas grid itself.

Alternatives to gas such as heat pumps can be more expensive and could require design changes to the building to perform as efficiently as possible, but most heating system replacements are distress purchases when the existing system fails.

Regardless of how old your current system is, you should seek advice now about how the end of gas fits into your long-term net zero plan. This will help future proof other energy efficiency investments, and when the time comes, it will ultimately save you money and avoid interruption of service caused by making a distress purchase.


4.      Ask for help

Ultimately each building is unique. Your long-term plan must deliver the best value for you now, while de-risking your net zero investments for the future. There is a great deal of information out there about energy and sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start.

LSBU academics have widespread expertise across a range of topics in the built environment that can both help save money now and support you in your net zero journey.  


So, what’s next?

We need to approximately halve the energy demand in our buildings to deliver our net zero future. Doing this will also make our buildings more comfortable and cheaper to run. The benefits are considerable but getting there won’t be easy.  A half century of cheap gas has made energy a low priority for most of us.  But as the era of gas draws to a close, we need to become more actively engaged with how we use energy. We must respond to crises in the short term with plans that work in the long term, so that decisions we make now will make the next decisions easier.  

Our thanks to Professor Gillich for these valuable insights and hopefully it's given you a variety of ideas to pursue.

We have a range of free SME innovation and net zero business support initiatives available through South Bank Innovation including:


·      Sustainable Business Solutions

·      Net Zero Short Courses

·      Our Sustainable Innovation programme

·      BIG South London Integrate – Supply Chain Management

Connect with us today and we’ll see how we can support your SME.

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