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Help to Grow (Management): Five tips for business leaders to help grow their business sustainably

Photo of Dr Lynn Oxborrow Dr Lynn Oxborrow

To be successful in the future, Britain’s brightest and best business leaders will need to have sustainability at the heart of their businesses as they create growth.

With the COP26 climate conference well underway in Glasgow, it is clear we all have to do our bit to help the UK achieve its goal of being net zero by 2050.

That is why sustainability features in the content of the Help to Grow Management course, which has been created to help small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) grow post pandemic, with invaluable advice on how to reach new customers and boost profits.

Dr Lynn Oxborrow, Associate Professor in Management at Nottingham Business School and Programme Director of the Help to Grow: Management course at the school, was involved in sustainability’s inclusion in the course.

A researcher and teacher of sustainable fashion and sustainable supply chain management, she explained: “Addressing the climate crisis is essential and everyone needs to do their bit.

“SMEs can play a big role here, as introducing sustainable innovations and practices not only helps to reduce carbon emissions, it can also have a really positive impact on business competitiveness.

“This could include everything from cost savings and improved efficiency to winning new business, carving out a niche, and retaining employees – the benefits have a real impact on productivity and innovation for forward thinking SMEs.”

Aimed at small and medium-sized businesses in the UK that employ between 5 and 249 employees, the Help to Grow: Management course is delivered by leading business schools from across the UK.

The course is worth £7,110 per participant but is 90% subsidized by the government, meaning business leaders pay just £750 for tailored, high-quality business advice.

Business leaders can benefit from 50 hours of in-depth training, one-to-one business mentoring, and the opportunity to grow their business, fast. They can take part around existing work commitments and access learning through a blend of online and face-to-face sessions.

The course covers financial management, strategies for growth and innovation, digital adoption and responsible business practices. It features inspirational business leaders and the opportunity to learn alongside local peers, with access to a national alumni network.

A recent survey of small businesses, carried out by the British Business Bank, revealed last month collectively small businesses account for around half (43-53%) of UK business greenhouse gas emissions. However, it also showed 94% of businesses questioned had taken at least one action to reduce their emissions.

And to help businesses start their net zero journey, Dr Oxborrow has produced five tips on business sustainability:

  1. Understand your carbon footprint and how making changes could benefit your business
    Could reducing energy, water use or waste reduce your costs? Or could adopting more sustainable products or services add value for your customers and help to engage your staff?

    Reflect on and rethink your energy use and where it comes from. Consider the energy used for machinery, lighting and heating but don’t forget what you use to cool your server, store data and send emails too.
  2. Adopt technologies that can help you to reduce your carbon footprint
    Using MS Teams, Zoom or a similar platform could mean fewer routine visits to customers. Sensors that switch off the lights when you leave could reduce your energy use. You could also use technology to monitor your carbon footprint and measure the improvements you make.
  3. Rethink your business values
    Look at how changes you make could reflect positively in your external and internal branding and communications. You need to be genuine and include the tangible things you’re doing to make a difference. Innovations in your product, changes to your supply chain, doing more with fewer resources need to be shared with staff, customers and stakeholders.
  4. Get your team onside
    Making a positive difference can have a beneficial effect on staff morale, wellbeing, motivation, staff retention and productivity. Getting everyone involved in making changes such as cycling to work, introducing a recycling scheme, reducing food waste in catering outlets, and turning down the heating, could make a big difference to the team and make sure your initiatives are a success.
  5. Plan for the long term and make your product or service more innovative
    Plan for carbon reduction, targeting the easiest, most accessible changes first, and then move onto longer term actions that might require more knowledge and investment, but which could also have the biggest impact on your business and the environment.

    Introducing sustainable or recycled materials, and reducing packaging could cut materials usage, reduce logistics costs and create added customer interest. These innovations could help differentiate your business from your competitors.

Anne Kiem OBE, Executive Director, Small Business Charter and Chief Executive, Chartered Association of Business Schools, said: “Business schools support many thousands of small and medium sized businesses to address pressing issues they face, including growing their businesses in sustainable ways.

“The expertise in the UK’s business schools is world-leading and based on real-life practice. All of the business schools delivering the Help to Grow: Management Course have been accredited by the Small Business Charter – an assessment led by small business leaders themselves.”

The Help to Grow: Management course is open at business schools across the UK. To find out more visit

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