The future of sustainable farming - big farms v small farms

18 Oct 2013


To mark World Food Day on October 16th, drinks giant SABMiller is asking whether big or small farms represent the most effective means of improving food security.

As a global giant brewing giant that buys its raw ingredients from both small and large-scale farms in Africa, India, parts of Latin America, and elsewhere, the company certainly understands the pros and cons and has produced a video to explore the differences.

The merits and pitfalls of both approaches are more complicated than you might think.

Is the UK public getting financially smarter as well as greener?

17 Oct 2013


As we gradually haul ourselves out of recession, there is mounting evidence that the last few years may have made the UK public think a little more about the way they live ... as well as the way they spend money.

One of the more interesting studies into energy usage to be released over the last few months, indicates that the UK public is in favour of an increased use of renewable energy sources rather than fossil fuels - proving their commitment to environmental and financial preservation.

The study, which was funded by the UK Energy Research Centre but conducted by the universities of Cardiff and Nottingham, found that 79 per cent of those questioned are keen to see less reliance on fossil fuels and more than 81 per cent are eager to reduce their own energy use.

Alongside the fact that such an attitude would contribute positively towards the future of the environment, it could also be a genuine way of saving money on a personal level.

Addressing your credit rating

These statistics appear to indicate an increased maturity within the wider British public in terms of how they look at their own financial situation, but the prospect of addressing an individual financial status would be an even bigger step.

There are a number of myths surrounding the way in which you can affect your personal finance rating, but taking steps to identify the truth in this process before putting steps in place is a great idea. Firstly, make sure you understand how companies view your own personal situation, by going online and checking what will be seen by finance houses when you are checked. Go online and look at your Credit Expert credit rating. Doing it online is quicker, easier and obviously saves getting a paper copy.

Protecting the environment and saving money are big responsibilities for any consumer, but so is ensuring personal finances are in good shape.

Simple solutions

Registering on the electoral roll and striving to ensure you meet all rent payments on time are among the simplest ways to secure and maintain a high credit rating.

These examples are not particularly difficult to carry out and could make all the difference to your credit rating; something which could be critical as you move through life.

Know your score

Credit reports can be assessed in a number of different circumstances, with everything from applying for a mortgage to a new job being subject to basic credit checks. It is always a good idea to do everything you can to keep your credit rating as high possible and understand your score with these points in mind.

Poor credit ratings may have taken many people by surprise in the past when they found their applications rejected on the basis of discrepancies in their financial past but this situation is becoming less common in the modern day.

There is mounting evidence that the UK public is getting savvier when dealing with their financial affairs, finding ways to maintain their credit rating is all part of this, as is cutting down on expenditures and costs by going green.

£1m funding opportunity unveiled for low carbon businesses

16 Oct 2013

Berti Green Accelerator

Berti Investments is a young and inspiring environmental impact company that invest in growing, entrepreneurial, low carbon businesses in the UK. Their concept is clear; Berti supports innovative organisations that are dedicated to carbon reduction and environmental best practices.

The Berti Green Accelerator (BGA) programme was launched in 2012 and attracted more than 80 companies from all over the UK to apply for investment and business support. This year, the programme, in partnership with leading global investor Coller Capital, is busy searching for three UK low carbon companies to help deliver their shared vision of creating a long-term positive impact on the environment. The process is shaped by three simple stages: an initial online application submission, presenting in a finalist selection event, then going Dragon's Den-style into a final pitch. The three winning companies will be awarded with a free 12 month mentorship programme from Coller Capital, and access to a £3m funding pool from Berti.

Firefly Solar, specialists in Solar Energy Solutions, was one of the 2012 winning companies and serves as a case study of how funding and mentorship can have a measurable impact on small business. Berti's funding has allowed Firefly to move from the start-up phase into a sustainable growth phase. Firefly received six months of first-class business support and expertise from Hamilton Bradshaw Impact Partners, and £550,000 of investment from Berti Investments to help their business advance to the next level.

Andy Mead, founder and CEO, Firefly said:

"With the economic crisis making it difficult for small businesses to access funds, the Berti Green Accelerator Programme (BGA) has filled the gap for British cleantech SMEs. The people behind BGA share a common vision with Firefly Solar. This shared vision paired with the extensive experience of the management of Berti Investments and their extended network has enabled Firefly to get the advice and support it needs to grow in a sustainable manner.

"Without Berti, Firefly would not have been able to move to new premises, expand the staff and grow the business at the same speed. The management at Berti has ensured that their time is made available to Firefly on an ongoing basis. Firefly has had access to a high-profile network of business leaders as a result of association with Berti. This culminated in appointing Jeremy Leggett as chairman - one of the industry's leading thinkers."

It's clear to see why the Berti Green Accelerator programme is popular, but it is by no means an easy ride. The judging criteria is strict: companies must be able to demonstrate long-term, sustainable growth strategies that align with the programme's impact-focused approach to investing. Many entrepreneurs lack experience and knowledge about certain aspects of their business, operating without financial or operational expertise. Berti Investments recognises the restraints and dilemmas these entrepreneurial businesses face, and has dedicated itself to breaking barriers and allowing entrepreneurial companies to access capital, business networks, and elite, hands-on support from experts.

Smart investment

The low carbon sector is a key growth area in the UK, but many young, innovative start-ups entering the marketplace find themselves struggling to secure the necessary funding they need to thrive, and may also lack the guidance and mentorship they need to grow. Investor confidence in the UK's green industry has been at an all-time low, meaning that these SMEs have to really stand out from the crowd to get the attention of investors in this hugely competitive landscape. This is where the Berti Green Accelerator programme steps in. Berti believes in the power of smart thinking, combining investment and expertise to ensure a greater chance of building a sustainable, successful business. Berti is fully in tune with the increased scarcity of natural resources, and therefore looks to support businesses that will solve some of these related environmental and social problems.

Applications for the Berti Green Accelerator programme are now open and will close on November 7th 2013. The Berti Green Accelerator is in partnership with Coller Capital and supported by Irwin Mitchell, ecoConnect and FORE Partnership.

Get into the cycling spirit with Kier Homes’ Go Green scheme

26 Sep 2013


Thanks to a new initiative launched in June of this year, Kier Homes is giving away free bikes and cycle helmets to new buyers as part of its new ‘Go Green' scheme. The initiative, which the property developer hopes will help to cut the nation's carbon footprint and boost fitness, allows every buyer of a new home at its Connect21 development in Peterborough to get a new bike.

Kier Homes hopes that this new initiative will encourage new residents to leave their cars at home, instead choosing to take a short ride into the city centre. The developer, founded in 1928, has even developed a handy free guide to cycling in the area, which it hopes will see cyclists enjoying easy routes into the city and exploring the local countryside.

The free guide, available when homebuyers complete the purchase of a new house from Kier Homes, offers guidance and tips to encourage safe cycling in and around Connect21. The guide also includes information on local route information boards which have been installed around the development on open spaces and cycle routes.

Connect21 itself can be found at Potters Way in Peterborough. The development of new homes has a mix of 2, 3 & 4 bedroom houses and apartments within easy walking distance of Peterborough city centre and is located less than a mile from Peterborough train station.

The impressive development of new homes in Peterborough has been designed with sustainability in mind from the outset. Kier Homes used eco-friendly materials throughout the building process with materials sourced from a number of different sustainable resources.

The location of Connect21 is also key; Kier Homes transformed a redundant industrial site into a stylish, contemporary collection of homes set in a beautifully-landscaped setting. The development is complemented with easy access to open spaces and specially-created wildlife habitats areas in and around the development.

Building on Britain's cycling successes over the past two years, Kier Homes' Go Green initiative encourages everyone in the area to get on their bikes and start to cycle to places where they previously might have taken the car.

Although only buyers of new homes in Connect21 receive a free bike and safety helmet, the property developer hopes that their newly installed information boards around the area will get other local residents involved in cycling to and from the town.

Kier Homes wants to build on the last two years of British "cycle mania", and it hopes that its ‘Go Green' scheme will do just that. After Sir Bradley Wiggins CBE won the Tour de France in 2012, before going on to win Olympic Gold at the London 2012 Olympic games, Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton MBE and Laura Trott OBE all achieved similar successes on their bikes at last summer's Olympic games. This year, Chris Froome followed in Sir Bradley Wiggins' footsteps to become only the second ever British winner of the Tour de France.

Kier Homes' new ‘Go Green' scheme builds on the continued successes of Team GB's cyclists and our recent Tour de France wins. Britain's recent domination on the road, track and Velodrome has also been mirrored by an increasing participation in cycling in the UK, and bike sales are up as a result.

At Connect21, two cycle routes have been selected, both of which start close to the development. To ensure new cyclists don't get lost, a handy free map is available to cyclists from the Connect21 sales office. The local area's large information boards found along the route also provide further information about cycling in Peterborough.

Nick Moore, deputy managing director of Kier Homes said: "We're delighted to welcome Mr Jackson to Connect21 to see for himself how our Go Green initiative is making it easy for local people and families to enjoy healthier lifestyles. With Connect21 so well located close to the city centre and to the natural landscapes of the River Nene, exploring the area by bicycle makes perfect sense."

Healthy SME business and going green

24 Sep 2013

Health screen

Running a small to medium-sized enterprise brings with it a host of challenges, but there are also many rewards, such as:

- Greater variety for employees - with fewer people in the workforce than at a large corporation, people often have the chance to develop skills that go beyond the confines of their remit.

- Better potential for gaining a profile within the organisation - another advantage of working somewhere that has fewer than 250 employees.

- In a poll carried out by the global personnel specialist Webrecruit in 2012, nearly a third (30 per cent) of respondents indicated that "working for a company where good ideas count, not power" was the main draw for working at an SME. In a very important sense, this is employee engagement in its purest form: the interaction between staff and the directions/decision making of the company as a whole.

The challenges of going green for SMEs

One of the challenges of going green for SMEs is also, in practice, the biggest advantage. And that's the fact that if you're an SME with a focus on sustainability and environmental responsibility, then the value comes from putting green policies into practice.

Without a large PR machine or publicity department, there would be nothing to gain for smaller business simply by paying lip service to sustainable thinking. For SMEs looking to gain a green edge, it's a matter of sustainable doing.

The 360 degree approach to healthy employees, business and environment

The term "holistic" is buzzwordy, of course - but there are tangible benefits by looking at improving business as a whole rather than only by looking at specifics. For instance, an organisation that cares equally about its products and services, its people and the environment will have a set of values that are written into the corporate DNA. And it's by this process that organisations gain a competitive edge - being better able to recruit, continuously develop - and hopefully hold on to - the best talent available.

There are many different ways in which SME business can promote health and sustainability side by side, including stuff like the popular cycle to work scheme. Encouraging staff to cycle to work is a perfect example of holistic thinking, since it is:

- Economically sound - saving employees money not just on the bike but on fares or fuel costs for alternative forms of transport for their commute.

- Physically healthy. Cycling to work has been linked to lower obesity rates in employees as compared with those who take the car.

- Environmentally proactive. By providing a set of conditions where cycling is encouraged, the organisation is demonstrating a commitment to sustainable travel as well as building it into the corporate culture.

Healthier staff potentially also means significantly fewer incidences of sickness absence, and provision of company health insurance as well as employee assistance programmes and mental health promotion can complement benefits such as cycle-to-work, healthy food on-site and subsidised gym membership to ensure workforce health is a priority.


BusinessGreen's Industry Voice blog offers experts from across the low carbon economy the opportunity to present their views, opinions and analysis on the latest green business developments

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