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More Sustainable Towns and Cities

One of the key themes we’re seeing for 2023 is how to make towns and cities more sustainable. Much of this is on the back of Government activity, such as their Mission Zero report, published in January and mandate from April 2022 forcing the UK’s largest companies to complete annual climate-related sustainability reports. For these reports, companies have to show they’ve considered the impact of climate change on their operations (eg heatwaves, droughts, storms, and floods), as well as the effects of changing technology and consumer sentiment on the back of net zero transition.

Opportunities or Threats?

Some businesses are viewing this as a tick box exercise. Others are carrying out detailed analyses identifying new, innovative ways they can cut carbon dioxide emissions. In the process they’re improving efficiency and costs. Significant benefits can be gained from cutting fuel, especially reducing heat and transportation.

This second group is pretty astute. Making operations sustainable saves money and appeals to a wide, and growing, range of stakeholders. Positively impacting everything from inward investment to customer loyalty, word of mouth promotion to overall sales.

Consumers Support This Change

Sustainable lifestyles are growing significantly according to Deloitte and ThinkWithGoogle. Searches on “carbon neutrality” have almost doubled in a year (+92%). Nearly as many want to reduce food waste (+89%) and find out about recycling and plastic wastage (+60%).

What Works for Big Companies Works for Towns and Cities too

With “bricks and mortar” costs rising and footfall still recovering post covid, cutting costs and reducing landfill makes sense. Simple things like switching off heating half an hour before closing time doesn’t impact how you’re viewed but can significantly benefit your bottom line. This step alone cuts heating, costs, and related emissions by six per cent or more.

Leading the Way

What other things can businesses and town centre organisations do? Here’s a few examples.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

One of the first steps to consider is the “circularity” of your operations, in terms of reducing, reusing and recycling items.

  • Norwich BID, has introduced an exchange market helping local businesses reduce and benefit from unwanted products, rather than sending them to landfill.
  • Croydon Council’s waste management scheme collects and recycles a wide range of products. Not just plastic, batteries, and glass, but high emitting, polluting and useful products too. Coffee grounds, coffee cups, food, and oil. Some of which turn into climate friendly biofuel, reducing carbon emissions further still.

Meat Free Mondays

High street chains, Burger King, M&S Food, McDonalds, Cook, and Pizza Express are supporting Meat Free Mondays – a scheme to help reduce meat consumption. With meat production up to 10x higher in emissions than vegan or vegetarian alternatives, Meat Free Mondays are raising awareness, encouraging consumers to change behaviours, and appealing to environmentally conscious customers too.

Integrate Existing Town Centre Initiatives

Many activities supporting town centre usage can also be adapted and incorporated into sustainability plans. This includes Farmers Markets, Britain in Bloom (new sustainability category), Fair Trade and Active Travel schemes. As the links show, many towns, cities and counties, are carrying out activities under this theme now.

Communicate What You’re Doing and Why

These examples show that positive actions are just the start. Further benefits come from promoting them. In store door notices can highlight that emissions are being saved. Use point of sale promotion for fairtrade products or sustainably sourced items.

For Councils, Chambers, Business and Community Improvement Districts, the examples above show how others are making their towns and cities more sustainable. Winning awards and promoting activities through local media is good for growth in any town or city centre. 

The World is Changing

In 2020, 26 per cent of all Greenhouse Gas emissions were due to consumer expenditure – the largest contributor of any sector across the UK. As the Government is facing stringent targets for lowering emissions, the current focus is likely to expand.

Climate change is impacting individuals and businesses nationwide and these impacts will accelerate more and more. Many activities which reduce emissions, don’t just make towns and cities more sustainable, but increase their chance of thriving too. So, the sooner we start cutting our carbon footprints, the better life will be – for everyone.

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