The World Health Organisation recognise that air pollution is the largest environmental health risk we face today, causing up to 36,000 UK deaths per year (GOV.UK). To combat the effect, the UK Government has set ambitious climate change targets to reduce carbon emissions by 78% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2035; a goal which will require the collaboration of UK businesses and individuals.
Thursday 17th June marks Clean Air Day in the UK, a moment to demonstrate support for action on air pollution, so we’re looking back at some of the key initiatives we have been involved in over the past year, as well as what we pledge to do going forward.
Reflection on the past year
Driving Clean Air
Whilst also dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, many councils persevered on their task to reduce carbon emissions locally. In 2020, Shire Leasing PLC was appointed by Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES) Council to deliver the UK’s first financial assistance scheme to support businesses affected by the introduction of clean air zones invest in lower emission vehicles. Shire was instrumental in developing the framework for this pioneering initiative and continue to provide business finance expertise and knowledge to other authorities across the UK who are keen to benefit from the framework without the need to embark on their own procurement process. In parallel, Shire recognise that some authorities may prefer to develop their own approach and we are working with them to build their unique schemes.
As an appointed funder on Bath’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) Financial Assistance Scheme, Shire are actively providing businesses impacted by the introduction of the clean air zone with direct financial support in the form of grants and/or interest-free financing to accelerate investment in low/no emission vehicles. Shire was proud to finance the very first vehicle in this scheme in January 2021 since which time, we have supported hundreds of clients with their upgrades. Shire’s specialist Vehicle Solutions team also continue to offer businesses flexible vehicle finance solutions outside of financial assistance schemes to help fund electric/hybrid vehicles via contract hire and hire purchase solutions.
New sustainability partnership with HOME
Continuing the commitment to ‘Driving Clean Air’, in April 2021, Shire Leasing announced their support of Manchester-based HOME’s sustainability programme, becoming their 2021/22 Sustainability Sponsor. HOME is Manchester’s centre for international contemporary art, theatre, music and film.
HOME are ambassadors for environmental change in the Greater Manchester region, working with individuals and businesses to pioneer action through training and knowledge-sharing. Our sponsorship will be used to fund HOME’s sustainability work, including programming, travel schemes and other green initiatives. The collaboration will also include webinars with HOME’s award-winning sustainability team, which will be available for Shire’s clients within Greater Manchester to share best practice and help make their businesses more sustainable.
Forming relationships to tackle air pollution
Relationships and communication are key to achieving ‘Clean Air’. As we form new business relationships with Cleantech specialists, we continue to learn first-hand about the innovative assets and solutions available to businesses to improve our environment. Shire has also joined several leading membership organisations responding to sustainability challenges, such as Cambridge Cleantech, giving us access to the latest resources and insights that we can share with customers, whilst we communicate the message of alternative finance as an enabler to invest.
Our pledge to the future
Recognising the importance and role of sustainability within businesses, throughout 2021, Shire plan to upskill their employees through HOME’s Carbon Literacy training programme. The training will advance Shire’s sustainability journey and provide a team of employees with the knowledge and skills required to review current practices and recommend internal changes to minimise environmental impact.
Knowledge-sharing with customers
2021-22 will see further collaboration with HOME’s award-winning sustainability team. Later this year, Shire’s clients within Greater Manchester will be invited to co-delivered webinars, sharing best practice, sustainability tips and ideas, encouraging action for their operations.
Funding the change
As a business finance company, we have grown our focus on the importance of sustainability over the past year. Our underwriting schemes will be reviewed to make Cleantech investment simpler for businesses to achieve. We will continue to form new relationships within the industry and involve ourselves in new opportunities wherever we can, supporting UK SMEs to access the finance required to invest in greener solutions affordably.
Mark Picken, CEO of Shire Leasing, said: “Over the past year, we have further increased our focus on environmental improvement. We are playing our small part by seeking to finance renewable energy sources and Cleantech solutions, forming new relationships with leading organisations and supporting metropolitan initiatives to reduce emissions via Clean Air Zone financial assistance schemes.
“Our planet is depending on us as individuals and businesses to act now to embrace and accelerate changes that will deliver positive outcomes for our environment and the communities in which we work and live. Through collaboration with our partners and strategic alliances, our aim is to educate, build awareness and, where we can, provide financing solutions as an enabler for change. Let’s not be daunted by the environmental challenges we face but instead be energised by the opportunities that we have to impact positive change.”