Back in June 2019, the UK passed a law to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero, relative to 1990 levels, by 2050. Barnsley Council responded by declaring a climate emergency. They set a target to achieve net zero carbon across the borough by 2045.
Barnsley businesses have a big part to play in hitting this target. To support them, The Business Village applied for funding to set up a Net Zero Accelerator. This provided 43 businesses with a package of free support, including specialist consultants.
Initially, The Business Village team hadn’t set out to take part in the programme itself. But, on learning more about net zero and seeing what was being delivered, they decided to get involved.
Adrian Waite, Chief Executive at The Business Village said:
“Our new build in 2020 had to meet BREEAM Very Good sustainability standards. It opened our eyes and, with other older buildings to think about, we knew there was more we could do. We realised we needed our own net zero plan. When we saw what was being included on the Net Zero Accelerator programme, we knew we wanted to join.”
“It was a thought-provoking programme that helped to focus your mind on what’s important. I’ve not been involved in many business support programmes before that received such positive feedback”
The Business Village first came into existence in 1987. Established with predominantly EU funding, its original name was the BBIC (Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre). It had been set up to tackle the decline of the local coal and glass industries by bringing new technologies and entrepreneurs into the area.”
Several years on, the Board are now keen to bring innovation back to The Business Village. Net Zero stands out from a strategic perspective. It’s a commitment for the future , so there’s plenty of work ahead to meet the 2050 target.
The Business Village is now right at the centre of the net zero journey in Barnsley. When the opportunity arose to bid for a Net Zero Accelerator, the company offered to match fund the project to show its own commitment.
“As a legacy of the project, we have created a Net Zero room here at The Business Village which we plan to offer free use of to any Net Zero activity. Through the use of drawings and relevant quotes on the walls, we have created the right ambience for serious discussions on sustainability.”
It’s a great opportunity for Barnsley companies to use as a space for net zero strategy sessions. Or for a net zero consultant to run workshops for local businesses.
The Net Zero Accelerator helped The Business Village establish a baseline carbon footprint, and an improved Innovation plan to reduce emissions. Projects have now been completed, and others instigated that will deliver over a 50% reduction in the baseline carbon footprint by 2024.
“Our emissions are very different to the average business which came through the Net Zero Accelerator. Of the 38 companies that completed innovation plans, 83% of the carbon emissions were in Scope 3. But, for The Business Village, 85% of our emissions are linked to energy, so we are predominantly Scope 2.”
“Solar panels have now been installed on four of the five buildings, with plans in place for the fifth.. Lighting is being converted to LED. And Trend energy management software is now in place to control the internal heating system. This analyses every room and is monitored daily. Looking at April to August 2022 against the previous year, it’s already helped deliver a 48% reduction in gas usage.”
“We expect the overall return on investment for the changes implemented so far to be around three to four years. With the increase in electricity and gas bills, these projects have become more attractive. Our remaining carbon footprint is primarily linked to the gas boilers on our site. We’ll change these to more efficient boilers in the short-term. But we are unsure of a move to heat pumps, or even hydrogen further down the line – we’ll wait to see how the technology and value for money pans out first.”
The work to reduce the carbon footprint on site also has a benefit for tenants.
“Few of our tenants are involved in significant manufacturing within their supply chain, so the largest part of their carbon footprint will be related to the buildings they occupy. Because we’ve improved our carbon footprint , they’ll be working in more carbon efficient spaces, and therefore reducing their own footprint.”
The Business Village team are also looking to use their new-found knowledge of net zero to offer practical support for tenants.
As the focus on net zero gathers pace, companies will find themselves having to work on their carbon footprint and net zero innovation plans to comply with tender requests, or to continue supplying a key customer.. And it’s not a quick process which starts on a Monday and finishes on the Friday to put these plans in place
“From our experience, working on net zero is a no brainer. The early adopters will and some already have a competitive advantage. You’re really not doing justice to your business if you’re not working on net zero now. You can save money and potentially generate new income. Being excluded from a tender if you don’t have a net zero innovation plan could be a costly error of judgement.”
Measuring and establishing a baseline carbon footprint can take months, depending upon how much information you need to gather. It’s not straightforward, but help is at hand for companies. Consultants are available to guide you through the process, but free support is also out there. Nat West has recently launched it’s Carbon Planner. Registration, and guidance from the website is available whether you bank with them or not.
“Doing nothing, is not an option. . Start researching, start planning, and look for opportunities. Register your net zero interest with The Business Village if you are based in Barnsley. We’re happy to pass your name onto consultants who can help now. And we can also keep your name on file for our next Net Zero Accelerator.
To register your interest in further net zero accelerators at The Business Village, email ksteel@barnsleyBIC.co.uk
 Funding for the ‘Net Zero Accelerator’ at The Business Village comes from the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund, South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority and Barnsley Metropolitan Council.