Nottingham Trent University Launches New Sustainability Project Supporting Notts SMEs

Words: Adam Pickering
Wednesday 04 August 2021
reading time: min, words

With the launch of an ambitious new programme of support for SMEs in Nottingham, Nottingham Trent University (NTU) are hoping to do their bit towards a clean transition to a net zero economy. We talk to Programme Lead Kate Ling about what they’re doing to help businesses, and hear about their recent volunteering day at Summerwood Community Garden…


As illustrated by the floods, wildfires and extreme temperatures that have dominated this summer’s headlines both at home and internationally, we’re already seeing the tentative signs of what a less stable climate means for people, communities, and businesses. 

The UK Government’s 2050 net zero and Nottingham City Council’s carbon neutral 2028 pledges have set ambitious emissions reduction targets, with the aim being to keep temperatures below a 1.5c rise vs pre-industrial levels - a threshold that scientists agree we really don’t want to cross if we want to avoid the full catastrophic potential of global heating. 

Stepping up to this task, many businesses in Nottingham have either started their carbon neutral journey, or they’re wondering where to start. This is where NTU’s Sustainability in Enterprise programme comes in, providing practical support and funding to reduce the carbon footprint of eligible Nottingham SMEs.

Programme Lead Kate Ling tells us: “As governments, cities, and businesses across the globe work towards carbon neutrality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Sustainability in Enterprise programme aims to drive sustainable growth in businesses and the local economy. This includes a grant towards the cost of hiring a university graduate to champion sustainability, a carbon audit, workshops and expert advice on designing to reduce waste.” 

They’re not going it alone either, as Kate explains. “We’re working alongside the University of Nottingham and Nottingham City Council, presenting a united front to provide complementary sustainability support for local SMEs,” she says. “We’re working as closely as possible with other institutions to provide a joined-up offer to businesses in addition to Nottinghamshire local authorities and strategic partners, including the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce and the Federation for Small Businesses.”


But how does all this work in practice? “We’re focusing on four key areas: People, Products, Processes and Premises,” Kate says. “So for People - eligible businesses can access a 20% grant towards the cost of hiring a university graduate on a 12-month placement who can become a Sustainability Champion within the business with the support of Nottingham Trent University’s fully funded early careers development programme, the Sustainability Community Lab. The Sustainability Community Lab is designed to equip graduates with the knowledge and tools to lead a sustainability project that improves practices and processes within the workplace.

“Regarding Products, businesses can apply to receive support from our commercial product design team, taking advantage of their solutions focused approach and subject matter expertise. The team will perform a free Life Cycle Analysis to give the carbon footprint of the product, followed by advice on designing out waste, lowering their carbon emissions and achieving greater productivity and innovation. A second Life Cycle Analysis will then be performed to provide a quantifiable reduction in related carbon emissions.”

Addressing processes and premises sounds complex - how will it be done? “The first step will be to conduct a carbon audit of businesses to understand their current carbon footprint and get advice on how to improve sustainability and reduce that impact in a quantifiable way. We’ll then make recommendations to them, which could include working towards implementation of ISO14001, development of an environmental management system, or legal compliance and follow this up with in-house training for their staff. This will be complemented by free consultancy from our final year undergraduate students at Nottingham Business School focusing on carbon reduction, and the School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment focusing on improvements to premises.”

As an added benefit to the consultancy, eligible businesses can claim a 40% grant, up to a maximum of £5,000, for implementation of improvements to business processes and premises. NTU will also host fully funded carbon reduction workshops, where staff can learn to better understand how to embed specific aspects of low-carbon and sustainable practices across their organisation.


Getting together for what was a first in-person meeting for many, the team recently took a day out to “walk the walk” and put some of their green ambitions into action at Summerwood Community Garden in Clifton. Home of Blue Barrel Cider, an excellent and impeccably sustainable local cider brewer, the organisation’s work is all about encouraging local people to live more sustainably. With community at the forefront of Summerwood, they work with local volunteers to support vital tasks such as managing their wormery, which produces compost from food waste, and supporting the upkeep of their organic fruit and vegetable gardens.

It was great to get down to Summerwood Community Garden and help out with some practical tasks around the garden,” says Kate. “With the constraints of the pandemic, it's been strange kicking off the project with a new team and not actually getting to work together in person, so it was really nice to meet everybody in the flesh. We're very happy to support this great sustainable community organisation who are doing so many things right, showing how business can be both successful and have a positive impact on the environment. When you're working with nature and doing practical tasks like this you really feel you're making a difference, and we really enjoyed the experience.”

The Sustainability in Enterprise programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). ERDF helps local areas to stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. The programme is open to all SMEs based in the Greater Nottingham (SUDS) area.

Find out more about NTU’s Sustainability in Enterprise programme.

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