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Going low carbon in Greater Manchester

“Fundamental to our approach to growth must be a successful transition to a low carbon economy” Greater Manchester ‘Stronger Together’ Strategy

Clean, ‘low carbon’ growth is a key pillar of our city’s vision for the future. The world is changing; it’s the only constant we know – as cities from Paris to Mumbai gear themselves up for a sustainable future by investing in clean technologies and green infrastructure.

In Greater Manchester, city leaders have recognised in our economic strategy that failure to adapt to a ‘low carbon economy’ will have a “catastrophic effect on our ability to compete, threatening infrastructure [and] disruption to businesses.”

This is the first in a series of blogs which will explore the low carbon economy in Greater Manchester. Let’s start at the beginning…

What is Low Carbon?

‘Low carbon’ simply means fewer greenhouse gas emissions. We say ‘carbon’ because carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most prevalent greenhouse gas, but there are several others, such as nitrogen dioxide (think vehicle emissions) or methane (think natural gas/farming). Almost every product and service generates emissions either directly or indirectly during its production, distribution, consumption and disposal – commonly referred to as its ‘carbon footprint’.

The ‘low carbon economy’ encompasses a wide variety of activities. It includes activities traditionally seen as ‘environmental’ such as protecting and enhancing the natural environment, and those which are more ‘social’ such as addressing fuel poverty. It also includes the huge opportunities arising from these issues – opportunities which are creating new markets and new business ideas in Greater Manchester’s already thriving low carbon sector.

The low carbon sector is difficult to describe and pin down. It can’t be defined by Standard Industrial Classification codes and it transcends traditional sector boundaries. Put simply, it is made up of companies that supply the huge range of technologies, products and services that respond to, and take advantage of, low carbon and environmental issues. There is sometimes very little else in common between them – for example, waste processing firms and high-efficiency lighting suppliers are both in the sector but are in completely different markets.

There are various different names to describe the sector, including ‘low carbon and environmental goods and services’ (LCEGS), ‘cleantech’, ‘green economy’ and low carbon sector, the latter being the name we use.

How big is the low carbon sector?

While we can’t seem to agree on a name to use to describe the sector, there can be no disagreements about its size: low carbon and environmental markets are huge. Globally they are estimated to be worth over £3trn!

Here in Greater Manchester, the market is already worth £5bn, with growth rates that have even withstood the recession. We have nearly 2,000 companies in the sector, employing over 35,000 people. It can be divided up into eight key areas; energy efficiency, waste management and recovery and recycling, renewable and low carbon energy, low emissions vehicles and infrastructure, smart grids, water management and treatment, low carbon finance and environmental management and monitoring.  

What is the Business Growth Hub doing?

Because low carbon technologies are constantly evolving and new environmental legislation is coming in all the time, the sector is fast-paced and can be difficult to navigate. At the Hub, we have a team of specialist sector advisors to help these companies identify and capitalise on opportunities for growth. Our advisors are low carbon specialists; they use their market knowledge and skills to help companies find new ways to grow, diversify, expand their customer base, and raise their profile. 

Since launching in 2014 we’ve worked with over 130 low carbon companies, together achieving £8.2m in sales and creating/safeguarding 66 jobs.

The team has also developed a pioneering Low Carbon Network – a searchable online database and community that helps companies to raise their profile and find new business opportunities. Members get weekly updates with tender opportunities, upcoming events and local news. The Network also holds regular events to give members an opportunity to meet and discuss current topics.

The Low Carbon Network is also an easy way to get access to local suppliers. If you need any environmental goods or services, from energy efficient lighting to waste management, it should be your first port of call.

If you’d like to find out more about the sort of businesses we’ve supported, have a look at our resources or get in touch through Enquire & Grow.

If you’d like to become part our Low Carbon Network you can sign up here.


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