European Commission adopts plan to help small firms prepare for greener economy

European Commission adopts plan to help small firms prepare for greener economy

The European Commission has adopted a new set of objectives and actions to help small and medium-sized firms in the EU exploit business opportunities created by the transition to a more environmentally-friendly economy. The plans are set out in a publication entitled: ‘Green Action Plan (GAP) for SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises]: Enabling SMEs to turn environmental challenges into business opportunities’. The adopted actions include ‘greening’ firms to be more competitive and sustainable by improving resource efficiency; encouraging the development of environmental products and services; and improving access to new markets for environmental products and services.

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Broadband grant scheme rolled out

Broadband grant scheme rolled out

Small and medium-sized firms in Belfast, Salford, Portsmouth, Cardiff, Derby, Bristol, Edinburgh, Newport, London and Manchester can apply for grants of up to £3,000 to install faster broadband services at their premises. The roll out of the Connection Voucher Scheme, which is part of the Government’s Urban Broadband Fund, follows a successful two-month market test in August 2013.

The aim of the Scheme is to improve digital connectivity, create new business opportunities and encourage economic growth in UK cities. A further 12 cities will join the Scheme in early 2014.

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BIS call for interest: IASME

  • Government Consultation on Information Security Standard
  • UKITA supports IASME standard as most appropriate to SME Sector
  • Make your voice heard

With March seeing the beginning of a consultancy period for the Governments Cyber Security Organisational Standards, and given the recent events at Evernote we understand that is will be an area of concern for our members and their customers- see our article here.

Here at the UK IT Association (UKITA) we want to support SME’s, particularly those in the IT sector, to get the most appropriate level of Cyber Security Standard certification. While we acknowledge that ISO 27001 is a great standard for a company to achieve in Information Security Management, we feel that it is unrealistic to expect the majority of SMEs to be able to afford and achieve this standard.

For that reason we are supporting the IASME standard as the most appropriate. It is specifically designed with SMEs in mind and offers a set of strategies which effectively reduce the risk of loss through cyber accidents or attacks. In addition the work you do towards the IASME standard can count as credit towards the ISO 27001 standard.

Here is what IASME have to say:

“BIS are calling for organisations and groups to submit evidence in support of their preferred organisational security standard. They will use this evidence to select the Government’s preferred organisational standard for cyber security. In the first instance, they are inviting industry stakeholders to express their interest in submitting evidence in support of their preferred standard by 8 April. Shortly afterwards they will publish guidance to help them prepare their evidence for submission.

Government will also be exploring what can be done to help stimulate the uptake of organisational standards for cyber security, for example Government is considering the relevance of this work to Government procurement. More details on the requirements and the background can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/cyber-security-organisational-standards-call-for-evidence.

IASME (Information Assurance for Small and Medium Business) is a cyber security standard developed especially for SMEs. Originally funded by the Technology Strategy Board, it offers a set of business practices which will reduce the risk of loss of business through cyber accident or attack. The business practices are derived from internationally recognised cyber standards, distilled into common-sense language applicable to even the smallest business.

IASME are also developing UK-wide information events for SMEs and a research-based advice centre for SMEs with a couple of top-flight universities similar to the WARP concept. IASME already has a link with an AIG-underwritten cyber insurance product brokered by Sutcliffe of Worcester – details on our site.

The likely alternative is certification to the full ISO 27001 Information Security Management Standard which has proved difficult and expensive to achieve for SMEs. We feel that IASME offers a more cost-effective solution for UKITA members and ask that UKITA contributes to the BIS consultation.”

If you wish to be part of the consultancy send your expression of interest to submit evidence in support of your preferred standard by Monday 8 April 2013. Give the name of your industry body or group of companies and the name of the standard against which you intend to submit evidence.

The BIS will then publish guidance for submitting bodies by Tuesday 30 April 2013.

The final date for submitting evidence will be Monday 14 October 2013.

And remember- the IASME standard will meet the needs of the majority of SME’s- ISO 27001 may well price some people out of business if it is made a requirement.

To keep up with the latest industry news visit the UK IT Association (UKITA).

The Sustainable Business: A survival guide

Sustainability is a complex and evolving subject. People often understand elements rather than the wider picture.  ‘Sustainability’ can be an over-used and sometimes misplaced term. Whilst most people broadly support the aim of sustainability, the necessary actions to implement a sustainable approach can be over-ruled by the shorter term cost savings or allowing everyday business delivery to get in the way.  The result is that sustainable solutions regularly become watered down and the long term cost savings and benefits are missed.

Instinctively Green was set up in 2009 to provide consultancy support to businesses, organisations and built environment projects to help deliver the long term sustainable solutions. A kind of “Greening Your Business or Project” service. Setting up any business in a recession is hard enough but it is even more challenging when offering support on a multi-functional/complex subject which requires people to think long term. Fortunately, for a variety of reasons, the business is steadily growing and delivering sustainable solutions to a range of clients.

On our own journey we have learnt a considerable amount about the business of consultancy. The first main learning was around the proposition of the consultancy.  Did clients already have the knowledge and skills to design and implement a sustainability strategy and action plan for their business or did they genuinely require and value our expertise? The important lesson learnt in delivering leadership, expertise and practical solutions were routed in developing and promoting a professional profile that people will trust. We found that creating a strong image and a brand supported by an informative and user friendly website gave us the professional base to market from. My advice is to use your contacts to help here. I have heard of many people saying that to save money they will create their own website only months and lots of hours later they turn to someone to help out. Invest in your support services from the start.

The next concern was marketing our offer. There is a huge world out there but one that now feels tiny due to rapid communications and the role of social media. For our business model I was not convinced of the benefits of taking adverts or sponsorship. The best result was using networks. We all bring a variety of skills, and it is important to understand these and consider re-shaping your offer around them. Our first year consisted of a series of “meet and greet” sessions with established contacts to introduce them to the new company and to showcase expertise and experience. Through this direct contact we secured two medium term contracts.

Another key lesson is project manage your time extremely well. Besides running the business such as the admin, timesheets, VAT returns, you need time to do the work you have won….failure to deliver is not an option. You won’t get paid and will damage your reputation. Finally you need time to create and generate new business. To keep this all in balance we found that planning the month ahead was crucial.

Since joining Skillfair in 2010 we have won two commissions through the tender process but have since learnt to be very selective. Tenders take up lots of hours and energy. You have to be hard here; only go for those you really want, you know you can deliver and ideally offer something unique or have good local contacts. The sustainability field is dominated by a few very large multi-disciplinary companies who appear to be winning tenders just to cover the overhead.

Additional skills are highly beneficial. Too often people think I’m an environmentalist or ecologist. I am not. I am a qualified town planner and housing expert. Importantly I have learnt that you need to be clear about the other qualities and skills you offer. For example, project management, facilitation, workshop and communication experience.  These are all valid skills that clients want. As a result using my professional qualifications I have found that you can focus on these services, responding to a client’s needs and then work with them to bring in the sustainability features. This is especially the case in building projects, where the client might simply want to refurbish a building, but with us we can help them consider more sustainable long term solutions.

There is also a good case for establishing close working relationships with your clients and through a dialogue pursue a wider range of sustainable options. Clients love added value and that personal touch. Make them feel good but know your limits.

Another key aspect of sustainability consultancy has been forming real partnerships. Due to the complexity of the subject it is virtually impossible on some projects to do everything. Therefore it is important to know what you can bring within a team. Instinctively Green has formed some really strong and embedded partnerships. We respect each other’s skills and jointly source new clients and projects. This requires trust so consider carefully who to become an associate with.

The benefit of focussing on strategic consultancy is that, when you can, be creative. Do something a bit different. For example we want to help small businesses become more sustainable, so working with my local authority we put on a series of informative breakfast events. From these we have considerably widened our customer base and positioned ourselves as local experts. We have since secured a research project which we hope lead to a larger local initiative.

It is also important to preach what you sing.  As a sustainability consultant we travel sustainably, use green materials and service providers wherever possible. This distinguishes us from the crowd. As more and more people feel the effects of high energy prices, petrol costs, water shortages they will start to see the savings and benefits of delivering long term sustainable solutions.

Finally as a small business it can be very lonely at times. Besides attending and joining networks make sure you get out and about to meet people. Sharing ideas or simply chatting over a coffee can often be the tonic to resolving a problem or provide that one contact that leads to your next job. Importantly keep the faith.

Adam Broadway
Managing Director
email:    adam@instinctivelygreen.co.uk
March 2012