Creating the right environment to do more business

The environment and the response of Lancashire businesses to the eco-challenges facing the planet are becoming major factors in their quest for new market opportunities.

The opening session of Lancashire Business Week 2021 heard that companies that don’t have an environmental policy are finding it increasingly more difficult to tender for work.

Larger corporations want to see their ethical approach to business mirrored by their supply chain. Consumers are also demanding businesses show the action they are taking to achieve net-zero ambitions.

Nick Butcher, process and equipment development director at Accrington headquartered machinery manufacturer E+R Group, told the online audience that the environment was becoming a dominating factor when it came to doing business.

Nick, who attended the COP26 conference in Glasgow, said he believed businesses would increasingly lead the work to tackle climate change.

He said: “We are seeing a lot of change in the behaviour of blue chips who want to have an ethical approach. They are passing that down to us.”

He explained that they increasingly wanted to see the company’s policies before even allowing it to tender for work. That approach was being passed right down the supply chain.

Nick said: “The very fact big businesses are being asked to show their environmental credentials impacts on smaller business.”

He added: “Businesses didn’t fail at COP26, they came together, and they will ultimately drive this. Consumers will lead by the choices they make as well.

“Government policies will come in; legislation will change over time, but business ethics is becoming a big dominant.

“In the next five years if you don’t have an environmental policy that will be an exception. More and more businesses are requiring this.”

He said E+R had put together its path to carbon-zero and would be publishing annual targets and its performance in meeting them.

And he also told the conference of the work the business is doing as part of a UK consortium of world-leading organisations looking to develop the next generation of batteries.

Ged Ennis, managing director of Burnley-based solar PV and smart energy solution provider Low Carbon Energy Co, said there had been an “absolute sea-change” since the start of the pandemic.

He said since the start of the first lockdown the business had been inundated with enquiries and he explained: “Manufacturers had time, because they weren’t manufacturing, to start to look at the way they were going to address business post-pandemic.

“They realised cost and carbon were on the agenda and they had space in their own minds to think about it.”

Ged added: “It has gone beyond ‘greenwash’, there is an issue around the world where we have got to do something about carbon. It is not a game anymore, there is a genuine desire to look at it.

“ESG (Environmental, social and corporate governance) is the real deal and there is a seriousness about it.

“The issue around energy costs is working in our favour. Electricity prices have virtually doubled.”

Lynne Gillen export manager at the Department for International Trade (DiT), told the audience that the disruption businesses had faced also brought new market opportunities. She also spoke of the importance of “connectivity” when it came to expanding markets.

Her advice to businesses looking at new markets was to do their research. She said: “It is imperative, if companies want to look at new market opportunities, to analyse what is out there and what is available.”

Lynne said there was a “plethora” of information services available, including British embassies. She added: “Companies can use them to understand the local market and the opportunities. Trade missions and trade shows are also a really good way of looking at new markets.”

The introduction of virtual trade missions had also allowed more companies to see those new opportunities without having to leave the office, she said

Lynne also urged Lancashire businesses to take advantage of the DiT’s Internationalisation Fund. SMEs looking to expand into new overseas markets can now apply for up to £9,000 of match funding.

The scheme has been specifically designed to help SMEs gain access to the support and advice needed as they expand their global horizons.

Nick Butcher, whose E+R Group exports 95 per cent of its products, added: “We establish a lot of agents worldwide, it is important we have boots on the ground.

“It is about understanding how local business is done. It is also important that you are always getting in front of new people.”

Summer Jenkins, CRM manager and security sales professional at Heysham-based Lingwood Security, said that as a service provider the business had responded to the challenges of Covid by coming up with new innovations.

That included investing in a system that allowed its clients to see that an operator was on their site when they should be.

Summer added: “Communication is the main thing, keeping in constant communication with the client.

“It is also about being honest, feeding back information to the client, whether it is positive or negative. And if it’s negative, telling them of the actions being put in place to improve things.”

She said that being transparent was of benefit in the long run and builds up trust. And she added: “We also ask what clients want from their security providers and getting that feedback from them has helped us retain clients.”

Headline sponsor of Lancashire Business Week is CG Professional.

Lancashire Business Week is also backed by patrons, Beever and Struthers, Bigtank, Burnley.co.uk, Burnley College, Cotton Court, IN4 Group, Lancashire Skills Hub, Nugent Sante and Zigaflow.

Venue patron is AMRC, and Lexus Preston is a supporter. Social media for Lancashire Business Week is powered by Boost Business Lancashire.