We caught up with James Napier, founder of CBN Expert to talk all things from the importance of having a sustainable business to launching a business during COVID-19…
Tell us about CBN Expert
CBN Expert is a free online community providing insights on all things carbon & sustainability, a community for sharing ideas, questions and best practice and access to a network of expert partners where more specialist support is needed. The community is supported by CBN Experts proprietary CBN Dashboard, an innovative, easy to use, online tool which allows SMEs to easily and simply calculate their carbon footprint, break it down and take action to achieve long term reductions and communicate to and involve stakeholders in their journey to a low carbon future. Access to the CBN Dashboard costs from £15 +vat per month and takes as little as 5 minutes a month to complete, providing the ideal solution at a cost and resource point that allows SMEs to fully commit to low carbon, embed this within their business and provide a strong future as the wider supply chain, increasingly, demands low carbon goods & services.
How did you come up with the idea for the company?
I have got a lot of experience in the sustainability sector, having worked for Honeywell and led Virtual Power Solutions, a software business supporting the transition to flexible energy. I’ve advised large & small companies on issues including energy efficiency, energy generation, network management and carbon emissions reporting and I’ve contributed to UK Government policy on clean energy.
Larger corporations are making all sort of sustainable commitments which is great – but businesses of all sizes need to demonstrate their commitment to being more sustainable in order to be responsible to the planet in the first instance – but also to compete successfully on tenders, appeal to new employees and clients and achieve funding and business support access. Being low or zero carbon is very quickly becoming a requirement to do business rather than a choice.
I realised that SMEs and startups simply do not have the time, budget or capability to measure or report on their carbon footprint, meaning they are potentially missing out on growth opportunities – and risking their future.
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Why is it important that businesses keep their emissions low?
Aside from the ethical issue – we all have a responsibility to our plant – it is an economic one; as Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England says: “Companies that don’t adapt will go bankrupt without question.”
By 2050 it will be a legal requirement for the UK to be net-zero. The UN has a target to be climate neutral by 2020, spearheaded by former Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. Companies of all sizes need to recognise the changing consumer and business landscape and be clearly defined as a responsible supplier and employer. They need to demonstrate their engagement to being more sustainable in order to be responsible to the planet in the first instance – but also to compete successfully on tenders, appeal to new, more eco-aware employees and clients and achieve funding and business support access. Being low or zero carbon is very quickly becoming a requirement to do business rather than a choice. Without that commitment, you are quite simply opting out of future commerce.
What advice would you give to other people looking to start a business?
Don’t launch in lockdown! Actually, it hasn’t held us back. If anything it has helped organisations realise how easy it is to reduce their carbon footprint as they have embraced home working and Zoom meetings.
Make sure your new business is both relevant and resilient. Being relevant means adding value to your customers which, essentially, means solving problems that they see as an existing or increasing priority. Resilience helps you survive the uncertainty of starting a new business. Finding the ‘first customer’ is exponentially harder than finding the second, and so on, for most new businesses. Plan for things to take longer than expected and make sure your business can survive during that time.
What can we hope to see from CBN Expert in the future?
We’re committed to taking our users on a journey. Helping them make the commitment to start their journey to a low carbon future and supporting them all the way to Net-Zero. We will continue to provide users with practical support for every step of their journey, an ever-expanding network of experts they can use for specialist support and enhanced functionality such as sector benchmarking and automatic, accredited, carbon offsetting.
Our purpose will always be to allow companies to make a full commitment to tackling climate change and to achieve significant & lasting reductions in emissions which will make their business stronger as the world moves to a Net Zero future.