Steve Harris, regional director for the North East at Lloyds Bank, discusses how the region’s firms plan to ‘build back greener’ and the tools available to help those looking to invest in new sustainability initiatives.

IN the past few months while firms have been navigating the challenges of Covid-19, sustainability has been firmly on the agenda.

We’ve seen large firms like Port of Tyne announce it’d cut carbon emissions by 700 tonnes and the launch of the government-backed Energy Entrepreneurs Fund initiative.

This £11 million fund encourages firms in the green energy sector to turn their ideas into real products that will reduce carbon emissions.

And data also suggests that small firms are taking sustainability seriously too, as they look to ‘build back greener’.

Our most recent Business Barometer survey found that more than half (59%) of North-East SMEs have already taken steps to become more environmentally sustainable in the past 12 months.

More than a quarter (26%) of respondents said they use suppliers who provide environmentally friendly goods and a similar proportion (28%) had transformed their business premises to improve energy efficiency.

These figures are encouraging, and as more firms in the region look to boost their sustainability practices and reduce their carbon footprints, many will look at ways they can fund these changes.

A third (33%) of businesses we surveyed financed their transition towards sustainability through cash reserves while one in eight (12%) made use of government grants to become more environmentally friendly.

To help firms finance new green operations our Clean Growth Finance Initiative (CGFI) enables firms to access discounted lending for changes that will help to make operations more sustainable – whether that’s installing solar panels or acquiring electric vehicles for company fleets.

The CGFI enables us to support businesses as they reduce their environmental impact and move to, and benefit from, a low carbon economy.

We recently announced our ambitious goal to help reduce the carbon emissions we finance by more than 50 per cent by 2030 and initiatives like the CGFI will help greatly towards meeting this target.

We also launched a range of new products and services to help tackle climate change, including the Green Buildings Tool.

This digital insight tool helps customers identify, evaluate and understand the estimated outcomes of potential investments to make property – such as business premises – more sustainable and energy efficient.

Making use of support like this can help businesses in the North-East keep driving sustainability forward as they start to recover from the pandemic.

The region has long held strong green credentials and it’s vital that sustainability remains a priority during the months and years ahead.