Attracting talent, staff retention, long-term business costs and social conscience were just some of the issues discussed at a recent breakfast event hosted by MHA Tait Walker, which joined forces with Greggs’ Head of Sustainability to discuss how the region’s SME business community can make a change for good in the move towards a more sustainable future.

Following COP26, the stage has been set for businesses and leaders, UK-wide, to up the ante in the race to beat climate change. But lack of government direction and a post-pandemic landscape remain the backdrop to a topic which is of increasing significance and concern for SMEs looking to do their bit – issues which were tackled head on during the breakfast briefing.

Bringing together the region’s business leaders at the firm’s first physical meet in over two years, MHA Tait Walker’s quarterly ‘Director’s Breakfast’ was aptly titled ‘How can SMEs bring sustainability to the Board Table?’

The session heard Managing Partner, Andrew Moorby debate the urgency for the region’s businesses to be accountable for their environmental footprint, outlining checks and balances SMEs can put in place to begin making a change now, such as looking inward and honestly at their company’s activity, speaking to staff and customers about their views and experiences and brining these to the fore of their sustainability journey.

The part a company’s sustainability and ‘green credentials’ play in talent recruitment and retention was also a key fallout from the morning, with MHA Tait Walker finding that now, more than ever, this is a significant factor in the recruitment discussion, alongside people retention.

Guest speaker Paul Irwin-Rhodes, Head of Sustainability at Greggs, provided a solid case study around both why and how a business can embrace the changes needed to start the journey towards leading a more sustainable business.

The discussion opened with the theme of ‘one planet living’ whereby the way we live and conduct business now needn’t compromise future generations. Paul went on to discuss the increasing importance of a business’s sustainability commitment to customers and investors and, echoing Andrew’s advice on looking inwards, recommended gathering feedback from all corners of the business in relation to the issues really concerning different parties and reporting back on efforts and results to drive engagement and confidence-building a roadmap for taking an ESG (environmental, social and governance) strategy forwards.

Andrew Moorby, Managing Partner at MHA Tait Walker, said: “A clear outcome of the event is that eventually, government policy is going to push businesses in a certain direction and that it is better to begin making changes, however small, now – to avoid expensive and rushed decisions further down the road. But direction is absolutely needed, and this is something we have been looking at for clients, many of whom know they need to ignite a change but aren’t sure where to start.

“As a business MHA Tait Walker doesn’t use a great deal of resources yet we’ve spent time looking inwards and there’s a resolute understanding that we need to change our business practices. We are only at the start of our journey but are excited to take our clients on it with us.”

Paul added: “Sustainability needs to be at the forefront of business thinking. Organisations who want to be around for the long term need to include sustainability within their strategy to provide business growth as well as having a positive impact on the world around them.

“Whilst last autumn’s COP26 provided a much-needed step-change in people’s understanding of climate change, clear guidance is what is needed for SMEs rather than theory, to take our business community forwards – both in the region and across the UK as a whole.

“It sits at the top of everyone’s agenda now, in particular businesses, who want to do the right thing but often struggle to know where to start. If we can be having more urgent conversations with one-another, we are hopefully a step further in the right direction towards combating climate change.”