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‘This is a business opportunity’: Why sustainability needs to be at the heart of every business in the future

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Sustainability has become a bit of a buzzword in 2020 and 2021. The Covid-19 pandemic has driven home the fact that we need to look after our environment for future generations to come.

This realisation has had a huge knock-on effect for businesses too. Consumers don’t just want to know that they’re getting the best product or service, they also want to support companies that have sustainability at their core.

But with so much to consider, how can companies get their eco-credentials in a row. Well, thankfully, there is now a new government initiative to help.

Launched by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister Eamon Ryan, The Climate Enterprise Action Fund is a brand new €10m initiative. The fund is designed to assist companies, which are supported by Enterprise Ireland, to begin or to accelerate their sustainability and low-carbon agendas.

To find out more, we caught up with Aidan McKenna, manager at the Climate Enterprise Action Fund in Enterprise Ireland.

Sustainability made simple

According to Aidan, the fund is there to help companies to navigate the world of environmentally-friendly practices.

“Essentially, the fund is there to help companies engage in sustainable actions,” he explains. “For companies that are already on that journey, we want to help them to implement some of their plans and achieve some of the targets that they’ve set themselves.

“If they’re unsure of how to start, this is the perfect support for them. The fund is a great way to get an expert who will support them on their journey and build their capabilities internally. They can steer them in the right direction, identify opportunities and give them a plan as to where they need to focus. It’s not too late to start. We want to engage as many companies as possible on this.”

The help at hand

As part of the fund, there are three main supports available - a Climate Action Voucher, GreenStart and GreenPlus.

Climate Action Voucher

“Our goal with the Climate Action Voucher, which is a two-day technical or advisory support, is for them to engage with an expert in sustainability,” Aidan explains. “I think a common problem companies have is that they don’t know where to start. That two-day engagement with an expert can help them to chart a course. It allows them to understand their baseline emissions and resource usage and helps them to identify opportunities for resource, cost and emission savings.

“If you’re a smaller business, there’s support out there for you too. Local Enterprise Offices are offering a similar initiative, Green for Micro, for companies with less than 10 employees.”

GreenStart

“Our next support, GreenStart offers up to 80pc funding to improve environmental performance. It is a seven-day engagement that takes things to the next level. Companies can be supported in a wide range of activities to build internal capabilities such as implementing a structured environmental management and reporting system, life cycle assessment, sustainable logistics and sustainable packaging.”

GreenPlus

“Our final support is GreenPlus,” Aidan continues. “This is where we’re supporting companies building their internal capabilities to implement international standards and frameworks. The funding allows them to train their staff and align their business goals and emission reduction targets with the Paris Agreement’s objectives and climate science.”

A business case

Aidan believes that the fund will not only help the environment, but it will also help companies to future-proof their business.

“We have a generation of consumers coming behind us that are absolutely more conscious of the choices that they make when it comes to buying decisions,” he explains. “This is a business opportunity. Those companies that can credibly say to their customers that they’re working towards being more sustainable as a business and as a service, they’re going to win new business at home and internationally as well.”

This is something that John Sisk & Son can attest to.

The fund in action

John Sisk & Son is the largest contractor in Ireland. The family-run business has been in operation since 1856 and during that time they have built some of Ireland’s most iconic landmarks such as Croke Park, Aviva Stadium, The Convention Centre and Grand Canal Theatre.

Today, the company is focused on building on their sustainability goals with the help of Enterprise Ireland.

“Sustainability is not something that you can do overnight so you really do need that support,” explains Ian O’Connor, energy manager at the company. “Enterprise Ireland is more than willing to help. They have the experience and the knowledge. They will go on this journey with you and they really provide ongoing support.

“It’s a case of getting started on that journey. Gather all the support and expertise that you can. Our energy management and sustainability capacity is growing all the time. We’re by no means perfect at it, but it’s a journey. You need to start somewhere and having someone to lean on and give you expertise is so important.”

Get started today

Aidan encourages any companies that are still on the fence to contact either Enterprise Ireland or their Local Enterprise Office and get started today.

“There is help out there. We’ve built up our relationship with experts. More and more companies are starting to build out that expertise. That’s what this fund is there to do. It’s here to help companies to access that advice and get that support. It’s a great opportunity.”

Visit Climate Enterprise Action Fund - Enterprise Ireland - Global Ambition to see how Enterprise Ireland can help you.


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