Starting a sustainable business can be a rewarding experience, both commercially and positively impacting the environment and local communities.
With climate change, ethical working practices and plastic use at the forefront of consumers’ minds, knowing where to look for support and funding is an important part of launching a sustainable business.
There are good reasons why start-ups should explore sustainable ways of working. Smaller businesses account for around half of the total greenhouse gas emissions Opens in new window from all UK businesses. It may make commercial sense, too. Smaller businesses can potentially recoup the money spent on making their business greener, such as switching to LED lightbulbs, within as little as one year, according to CPD data Opens in new window.
The type of support available for sustainable start-ups varies depending on your location and business type. However, there are numerous grants, loans and support programmes that offer advice available to help your business become more environmentally friendly.
Help ensure your business decisions make a positive impact on the environment with our free Introducing environmental decision making course Opens in new window.
As part of our Learn with Start Up Loans Opens in new window partnership with The Open University, our online course is free to join, delivered by experts and includes a free statement of participation on completion.
Support and advice for sustainable start-ups
There are numerous organisations and government-backed initiatives available for start-ups and smaller businesses and these include:
UK Business Climate Hub Opens in new window – developed by the UK government, this sustainability hub includes useful tools for businesses looking to reduce their carbon emissions. Businesses can optionally sign up to commit to taking action on climate change.
Carbon Trust Opens in new window – a dedicated hub for small businesses that provides tools to measure carbon emissions and advice on how to make changes, such as changing lighting or switching to electric vehicles.
Energy Saving Trust Opens in new window – dedicated to supporting communities, local authorities and businesses, the Energy Saving Trust provides practical advice on topics such as installing renewable energy and how your business can become more energy efficient.
YouGen Opens in new window – an independent resource for finding environmental suppliers suitable for small businesses, such as solar panel and wind turbine installers from across the UK.
Federation of Small Business Opens in new window – provides practical advice on small business operations, such as reducing water usage and transport emissions.
British Chambers of Commerce Opens in new window – with chambers operating across the UK, the British Chambers of Commerce network provides access to its Net Zero Hub, including green savings calculators, events and information about net zero for smaller businesses.
Learn with Start Up Loans Opens in new window – Start Up Loans has partnered with the Open University to deliver a free programme of online learning courses covering a range of environmental business issues, such as environmental decision making and sustainability in the workplace.
Financial support for sustainable start-ups
Several schemes offer loans and grants to help improve energy efficiency or to help introduce environmentally friendly schemes such as switching to electric vehicles.
Grants can be a great way for start-ups to access funding that helps pay for new technology or improve energy efficiency. Grants are a cash injection that, unlike loans, don’t have to be paid back. There are usually strict criteria in place, such as where your business is located or what you can spend the grant money on, and you’ll often have to go through an application process to be awarded a grant.
Grants and loans
There are numerous grant and loan schemes available, and the list below contains examples only and is not exhaustive. You can contact different financial institutions, local councils and organisations to find out what loans or grants are available. Always seek independent financial advice to help you determine the pros and cons of each potential option and whether either option is suitable for your business.
Ofgem Opens in new window – provides a one-stop summary of some of the UK-wide business energy schemes, loans and grants available, as well as specific grants and initiatives run by energy suppliers across the UK.
Local councils – many grants and loans are available for start-ups directly from local councils, and initiatives can vary depending on location. Use the government’s local council finder tool Opens in new window to visit your council’s website to see what local grants may be on offer.
Energy Saving Trust Opens in new window – a directory of up-to-date grants and loans that focus on green funding initiatives, such as financial support for small businesses in Scotland to purchase used electric vehicles.
Grants Online Opens in new window – specialist free-to-use sites such as Grants Online offer directories of grants and schemes that support smaller businesses, including a search tool so you can find grants available in your local area or by type of business.
Business Finance Support portal Opens in new window – operated by the UK government, this searchable portal lists nationwide schemes available for grants and initiatives designed to support business, including funding to increase energy efficiency or invest in lowering carbon emissions.
Boiler Upgrade Scheme Opens in new window – launching in Spring 2022 and operated by Ofgem, the government-backed scheme offers capital grants to businesses needing financial support to install heat pumps to replace fossil fuel heating systems.
Smart Export Guarantee Opens in new window – aimed at businesses using renewable energy and low-carbon energy generation technology, it allows businesses to export unused electricity back to the National Grid and get paid for the surplus energy exported.
Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF) Opens in new window – operated by the Environment Agency, this fund provides businesses with grants of between £10,000 and £100,000 for projects that support the development of environmental projects within the UK.
Thinking of starting a sustainable business? Check out our free online courses in partnership with The Open University on environmental decision-making and how organisations impact the environment.
Our free Learn with Start Up Loans courses Opens in new window include:
- Financial methods in environmental decisions Opens in new window
- Future energy demand and supply Opens in new window
- Energy in buildings Opens in new window
Plus free courses on finance and accounting, marketing, project management, management and leadership.