What is the Average Carbon Footprint of a Small Business in the UK?


In an era when environmental sustainability is becoming increasingly significant, understanding and reducing the carbon footprint of businesses has become a top priority. Small businesses form the backbone of the UK economy, contributing significantly to employment and GDP. Therefore, it’s important to consider their environmental impact. Yet, what is the average carbon footprint of a small business in the UK?

The Carbon Footprint of Small Businesses

According to data from the Carbon Trust, the average small-to-medium enterprise (SME) in the UK generates around 15 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) annually. However, the carbon footprint can vary considerably depending on the sector, location, size, and energy efficiency measures in place. Industries with higher energy consumption, such as manufacturing or hospitality, will have a higher average footprint compared to those in the service sector.

To contextualise, let’s consider an example. An SME office-based business, with around 10 employees, could expect a carbon footprint in the region of 3.7 tCO2e per employee per year. This calculation assumes conventional electricity and gas usage for heating, cooling, and powering office equipment.

Factors Influencing Carbon Footprint

Various factors influence a business’s carbon footprint, including:

  1. Energy Consumption: This is the primary contributor to a small business’s carbon footprint. It’s not just about how much energy is used, but also the source of that energy. Renewable energy sources can significantly lower a business’s carbon emissions.
  2. Transportation: Company cars, delivery vehicles, and employee commutes all contribute. The type of vehicle, its efficiency, and the distance travelled play a role.
  3. Waste Production: The waste a business produces, and how that waste is managed, can affect its carbon footprint. Landfilled waste emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
  4. Supply Chain: The emissions associated with a business’s supply chain can often be overlooked but are a significant component of its total carbon footprint.

Reducing Your Small Business’s Carbon Footprint

There are many ways for SMEs to reduce their carbon footprint:

  1. Energy Efficiency: Implementing energy-efficient practices and equipment can significantly cut down on emissions. This could involve using energy-efficient lighting, insulating buildings, or powering down equipment when not in use.
  2. Renewable Energy: Switching to renewable energy sources, like solar or wind, can drastically reduce a business’s carbon footprint. It’s also worth considering green energy suppliers.
  3. Sustainable Transport: Encourage cycling, walking, or public transport for commuting. For business travel, consider video conferencing as an alternative to face-to-face meetings.
  4. Waste Management: Implement a robust recycling program and look for ways to reduce waste in your operations. Consider composting if appropriate.
  5. Supply Chain: Choose suppliers who prioritise sustainability and have low carbon footprints themselves.
  6. Offset Emissions: Carbon offsetting schemes can compensate for unavoidable emissions. These schemes fund projects that reduce CO2 emissions, like reforestation or renewable energy projects.

The Importance of Reducing Carbon Emissions

In conclusion, the average carbon footprint of a small business in the UK is influenced by many factors and can vary widely. However, every business, no matter its size, plays a crucial role in reducing carbon emissions and combatting climate change.

Taking steps to measure, reduce and offset your carbon footprint is not only environmentally responsible, it also offers business advantages. These include cost savings, improved reputation, increased customer and employee engagement, and compliance with future regulations. Moreover, it contributes to the UK’s national goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Indeed, in a world where the impacts of climate change are becoming ever more apparent, the importance of reducing our carbon footprint cannot be overstated. As part of the solution, small businesses in the UK have a unique opportunity to lead the way in sustainability and demonstrate that profitability and environmental responsibility can go hand-in-hand.

Investing in energy efficiency, waste reduction, sustainable transport, and renewable energy sources are not only sound business decisions but also critical actions towards a sustainable future. Beyond these, businesses can seek to understand and address emissions in their supply chain, further reducing their carbon footprint and influence on climate change.

But reducing your carbon footprint doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. It starts with small steps: understanding your current carbon footprint, identifying areas for improvement, and taking action to reduce emissions. Even the smallest changes can add up to significant reductions when multiplied across the entire small business sector.

In the end, we all bear the responsibility for protecting our environment. For small businesses in the UK, this means taking a proactive stance on reducing their carbon footprint. These businesses are not just the backbone of the UK economy; they can also be the vanguard of its sustainable future.

By striving for carbon neutrality, businesses can ensure their operations are sustainable, resilient, and primed for success in a low-carbon economy. After all, the path to a sustainable future is a journey, and every step, no matter how small, counts. As such, reducing the carbon footprint of small businesses is not just good for the environment; it’s good for business too.

author avatar
Humperdinck Jackman
Leads the daily operations at ESG PRO, he specialises in matters of corporate governance. Humperdinck hails from Bermuda, has twice sailed the Atlantic solo, and recently devoted a few years to fighting poachers in Kenya. Writing about business matters, he’s a published author, and his articles have been published in The Times, The Telegraph and various business journals.


Matt Whiteman

I hope you enjoy reading this article.

Wherever you are on your ESG reporting journey you should talk to us!.

Get in Touch


Swipe-up for help!