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Can we take the North to Net Zero? Why 2024 could be the year of the B Corp

AuthorsRobert White

7 min read

B Corp & Sustainability, True North

Can we take the North to Net Zero Why 2024 could be the year of the B Corp

During December’s United Nations Climate Change Conference — COP28 — the eyes of the world were on Dubai, as policymakers thrashed out the wording of a landmark deal to “transition away from fossil fuels”.

While it’s crucial that world leaders are engaged in tackling environmental issues to transform policy and deliver systemic change, business can have a far bigger impact than you may think.

We’ve seen so much progress across the North already and the B Corp movement is gaining traction every year. Here’s a look ahead to what 2024 might have in store.


Becoming a B Corp — impact and business benefits

Often, businesses are viewed as being removed from the real world, void of feelings and genuine commitments. The individuals within a business are seen as separate and often unable to enact real change — their own thoughts, feelings and goals minimised relative to the relentless pursuit of profit.

B Corp certification is perhaps one of the most powerful tools for enabling businesses to play their part in addressing environmental issues — alongside commitments to ethical governance and employment practices, charitable giving and community outreach. B Labs aims to create a more inclusive, equitable and regenerative economy by building an international network of organisations committed to high standards of social and environmental impact.

We were welcomed into the B Corp community in September 2022 — a watershed moment in our sustainability journey. As a purpose-led business and the first law firm in the UK outside of London to achieve B Corp accreditation, this provided independent recognition for our focus on bringing about positive change for our clients, people and the communities we serve.

Part of being a B Corp involves recertifying every three years through a similarly rigorous undertaking as when gaining the initial certification. This encourages and rewards real action and we continue to engage with the industry-leading knowledge of our colleagues across the B Corp network to evolve our sustainability strategy.

The purpose of our first B Corp Impact report was both to highlight the progress we’ve made so far and reflect on what we can do better in the future.

Our certification has stimulated more sustainability-led conversations with clients and partners who share our values and ambitions. That’s why a commitment to ‘sustainable growth’ is a central theme of our True North network, which is committed to collaboration and supporting the future of the North.

With the European B Corp community growing by 63% in 2022 alone, 2024 could well be a landmark year for the movement, as interest continues to swell and businesses increasingly want to partner with others who share similar values.

We want to amplify stories of success and ensure that the North is home to the most sustainable and successful community of businesses in the UK.


Taking the North to net zero

We’re already seeing real progress in the North when it comes to tackling the climate challenge, catalysing action from stakeholders across the region.

The North West Cluster plan has been developed by a consortium of partners including Net Zero North West, Peel, the University of Chester and Liverpool City Region LEP. It aims to deliver an investment, technology and infrastructure blueprint for the North West’s net zero transition and low carbon recovery.

In early 2023, the consortium published a roadmap for decarbonisation in the region by 2040, demonstrating a £30 billion pipeline of live projects ripe for investment and a further £200 billion of investment in the region.

To maximise these opportunities, HyNet North West has been established as the UK’s leading industrial decarbonisation project — creating new roles, safeguarding existing jobs, growing a skills base and attracting investment into the region. It will also provide the infrastructure to produce, transport and store low carbon hydrogen across the North West and North Wales, as well as the infrastructure to capture, transport and lock away carbon dioxide emissions from industry.

Similarly, the North East and Yorkshire Net Zero Hub — a collaboration of six Combined Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships — looks to attract commercial investment into (and scale) the number, quality and size of net zero projects in the region.

It’s doing so by delivering an energy strategy for the entire North East and Yorkshire, supporting and accelerating the development of local and regional, low and zero carbon energy projects across 31 local authority boundaries — from housing retrofit to investment in green energy infrastructure.

With these strategies come greater opportunities for businesses in the North to deliver the infrastructure needed for a net zero future. Highlighted in our True North report, Fleetsolve is a multi-award-winning renewable power business that delivers energy security, supports the energy transition and helps to deliver on-site industrial decarbonisation across the UK and Ireland.

The driving force behind Fleetsolve’s mission is the imperative to achieve carbon reduction targets. The company assists clients in scrutinising their current energy consumption patterns across heating, cooling and power usage.


Restoring nature

Beyond decarbonisation and the race to net zero, we’re also seeing significant efforts across the North to increase biodiversity and restore nature.

The importance of such efforts was raised in the True North report by Faye Durkin, Head of Ecology and Natural Capital at Greengage. She called for nature-based solutions to be incorporated into our construction, built environment and way of life, so that humanity and nature can thrive together.

By assessing the natural capital and ecosystem services within a region, we’re discovering how to align development with existing strengths. This approach maximises the value of biodiverse, green spaces and steers development towards areas of lower natural value.

Another member of the True North network is Planit — the first built environment B Corp in the North West. Through community-focused landscape architecture, urban strategy and design, visual storytelling (using digital animation) and urban ‘story doing’ to build narratives around places, Planit turns innovative design concepts into reality. The aim is to restore balance between people, places and nature, fostering collaboration to drive positive change.

The impact of Planit’s approach is seen in its placemaking projects across the North, which include Godley Green Garden Village (a sustainable garden settlement in Tameside, Greater Manchester), Northern Roots (the UK’s largest urban park and eco farm in Oldham) and Liverpool Waters (a 30-year regeneration project in Liverpool’s historic northern docklands).

We’ve made our own commitment to restoring nature, supporting the Yorkshire peatland restoration project. Through our membership of the climate awareness-raising organisation Business Declares, we were introduced to the team at Kingsdale Head Farm, who are working with Yorkshire Peat Partnership as part of a wider four-year programme to restore more than 3,500 hectares of peatland and blanket bogs across Northern England. Kingsdale Head’s part of the project is expected to prevent the loss of at least 450 tonnes of carbon — equivalent to planting more than 22,000 trees — to the atmosphere each year.

Our initial investment helped to unlock £550,000 in grant funding for restoration work at Kingsdale Head via the Nature for Climate Peatland Capital Grant Scheme. The work includes the creation of 5,000 dams and sediment traps.

It’s not the only project of its kind in the North. The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester & North Merseyside is saving its peatlands by purchasing key sites to protect them from destruction before restoring and maintaining them through continuous monitoring.


Working together to build a better future

Following the creation of our sustainability goals, we’ve gone on to achieve the future Net Zero Platinum Standard — and as a full-service law firm, we’re also in a position to help other purpose-led businesses gain B Corp certification.

Whether you’re already on your sustainability journey or unsure where to start, we can help.

While this extends to offering legal advice on issues such as supplier contracts, employment policies and reducing emissions, we’re also on-hand to have informal conversations to give pragmatic guidance.

So even if you don’t have a legal need at the moment, we want to help businesses like yours get started as part of our commitment to positive change — to arrange a chat, please get in touch using the contact form below.

Through the True North network, we hope to enable many more of these conversations — and you can join us in our efforts to drive progress.

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