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World Environment Day - Cleaning up our language to engage SMEs in clean growth.

05/06/2019 Think Piece

Cleaning up our language - engaging SMEs in clean growth

Today is World Environment Day and the web is awash with talk about the state of the world’s ecosystems, the climate and the ways in which people can work together to improve the health of our planet. Lately there’s been a surge in the number of people engaging in discussions about plastic pollution and climate change, driven by media and campaigns such as Blue Planet and Extinction Rebellion.

This momentum seems to be carrying through to local and global politics and policy, with record numbers of Green Party councillors and MEPs elected and some cities, including York, declaring a climate emergency. Here at the LEP, we’re putting the environment front and centre of our policies, working with our partners to build ambitious regional strategies that will make York and North Yorkshire national pioneers of a green revolution. But all the public buzz does not mean the transition to this bright new future is straight-forward. There are big changes needed in the way we do business, new economic models to trial, and with that comes a new language, a jargon that can be alienating for SMEs who want to do their bit but don’t know how. So we’re building from the baseline, starting with language. How can we speak with SMEs to bring potentially abstract terms like ‘clean growth’, ‘circular economy’ and ‘decarbonisation’ into a more familiar format that makes sense within everyday operations and aspirations? Can we employ a language that engages SMEs rather than excludes them, and empowers them to make positive changes for their business and the environment? We’re going to be trialling key messages that we think will help facilitate conversations about the circular economy. A core principle of the circular economy is that waste is always a resource. So when we think about talking to businesses about improving their circularity, we can start with “did you know you can make money out of your waste?”. We want businesses to see value in every material they come into contact with, assessing their business operations and resource flow to work out where they can make or save money and recognising the potential for further value. This includes generating income from assets 24/7, posing the question “how can I make money from this while I’m not using it?”. The sharing economy is very much a part of a circular economy, and business-to-business interactions can help you generate more value from your materials and assets. Every business reading this will be on a different stage of their journey to sustainable circular systems and we want businesses to seek every opportunity for sustainability, in every area of their business. This can take the form of big aspirations – “How do I make my business more efficient and profitable for the long term?” – but we also want businesses to make small changes NOW – “How do I start to make my business more sustainable?”. Getting these messages right will be vital to engaging all sectors of the Yorkshire economy in this new way of thinking. The circular economy by its nature requires cooperation from every part of the supply chain and working across different sectors to find new opportunities. Do you have examples of where clear communication has broken down big ideas or created new collaborations? We’d encourage you to share your thoughts on our key messages – have we got the focus and the tone right? We’ll be working on expanding and revising these over the coming months to build into a region-wide communications plan so we’re looking for your help on getting it right first time – help us to make Yorkshire businesses well-informed and open-minded circular economy pioneers.    
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