The Climate Enterprise Action Fund is a new initiative, launched by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Environment Minister Eamon Ryan recently.
The €10m fund is designed to assist companies, which are supported by Enterprise Ireland, to begin or to accelerate their sustainability and low-carbon agendas.
It is one of a number of actions underway to ensure that Ireland reaches its ambition of reducing emissions by 51pc by the end of this decade. That’s important in and of itself and will contribute to a more sustainable future for us all.
However, along with the moral and political imperative, there is a very strong business case for Irish companies to adopt a low-carbon agenda.
Enterprise Ireland works closely with Irish companies who are exporting worldwide. It is vital that these companies are responsive to emerging market conditions. One of the most important emerging market demands today is the need for companies to demonstrate their commitment to low-carbon production and sustainable business processes.
Many Irish companies sell products and services to larger international companies at home and abroad. Increasingly, these companies are requiring suppliers to have sustainability at the core of their operations. A failure to show real progress can lock you out of the market.
What is termed ‘green finance’ is now a reality and will shape investment decisions into the future.
Likewise, many consumers are placing environmental standards at a premium when making purchasing decisions. Issues such as using recyclable packaging, adhering to international sustainability standards and having transparent supply chains are now important factors for more and more consumers. Those that don’t change will miss out on the significant opportunities emerging from the low-carbon transition and risk being left behind.
Another important factor is that investors and capital funds – which are critical to start-up and growing companies – increasingly factor in environmental impact into their investment decisions. What is termed ‘green finance’ is now a reality and will shape investment decisions into the future.
So, the business case for adopting a low-carbon, sustainable agenda is clear.
Enterprise Ireland’s new Climate Enterprise Action Fund is designed to assist companies at various stages of engagement with this agenda. It comprises of three main offers:
Climate Action Voucher – a €1,800 grant to engage consultants to develop plans in areas such as resource efficiency and renewable energy.
GreenStart – up to €5,000 to measure carbon footprint and identify ways to reduce emissions and operate more sustainably.
GreenPlus – a fund of up to 50pc to develop a multi-annual climate change plan aligned to international standards and frameworks.
The first two offers are driven by the principle of “what gets measured gets done”. Establishing a baseline of current resource consumption and emissions profile is essential to begin a change process. These offers will be particularly attractive to companies beginning their low-carbon journey.
The third offer, Green Plus, is aimed at companies further along the journey align to international standards and frameworks.
The Climate Enterprise Action Fund builds on work Enterprise Ireland is already carrying out with companies throughout Ireland. We know the initiatives that work well and embed change in companies.
Our colleagues in the Local Enterprise Offices (LEO) network also have a new scheme, called Green For Micro, designed to help smaller companies with up to ten employees prepare for a low-carbon, sustainable future.
We are acutely aware of the pressure that companies have been under facing up to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and our fundamentally changed trading relationship with the UK.
Many companies see the value in adopting more sustainable processes in principle, however, finding the time and resources to dedicate to that mission can be difficult.
That is why our new initiative is designed to provide companies with tangible baseline information and a route map of what a low-carbon, sustainable future looks like for them.
Having the low-carbon concept broken down into achievable actions makes the journey all that more realistic and the business wins all that more attainable.
The global trading environment is tough and competitive. To succeed, companies need to think not just about the next order, but about how their sector will develop in the next five to ten years. Environmental sustainability and responsible production will be key drivers of business success into the future. Now is the time for all Irish businesses to prepare for that future.
Aidan McKenna is manager of Climate Enterprise Action Fund at Enterprise Ireland.