Green Growth Trends in the East Midlands 2022

The Sustainable Business team from Derby Business School at the University of Derby has been collaborating with the East Midlands Chamber for seven years in a unique piece of research to map the trends in pro-environmental business across the region.

The latest research shows that the proportion of East Midlands businesses selling green goods and services has almost trebled over the past seven years. In 2015, 16% of companies in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire derived turnover from suppling environmentally-friendly goods – such as energy efficiency, waste recovery and eco-food and drink products – but this increased to 45% in 2022 as more firms identified opportunities in the UK’s race to net zero.

Despite business support programmes like DE-Carbonise, resources such as the SME Pathway to Net Zero and the Low Carbon Business Network, the ‘Green Growth Trends in the East Midlands 2022’ study found that 35% of businesses still aren’t engaged with green growth due to gaps in information, skills and access to finance.

Rising diversification into green markets and gap between large and small businesses among key findings

Other key findings from the research, which was based on responses from 372 organisations in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottingham to the Chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey in February 2022, including:

  • There is a rising trend of diversification into green markets, with a four-fold increase (7.5% to 28.5%) in businesses reporting that between 1% and 19% of their turnover derives from green goods and services between 2015 and 2022
  • The proportion of businesses considering green growth as part of their business strategies has more than doubled over the past four years from 9.7% in 2018 to 21.5% in 2022
  • More than 80% of large businesses are actively pursuing green growth opportunities, compared with 61% of medium, 56% of small and 36% of micro-sized companies
  • Only 17% of firms surveyed said the current policy landscape allows them to fully engage with green growth
  • A third (33%) did not feel well-informed about the support available for green growth, although this was a drop from 42% in 2021
  • The largest demand for skills development are in the areas of energy and resource efficiency, renewables and access to green finance

Green Growth presents opportunity as the harshest economic climate in decades

Report lead Dr Polina Baranova, a senior lecturer in strategic management, said: “It’s been positive to see such a positive trajectory in the proportion of firms entering the green goods and services markets, with SMEs becoming more active in green growth.” 

“Regionally, as the opportunities for green growth are becoming more pronounced, there is a need for holistic approach to supporting pro-environmental businesses.”

Dr Fred Paterson, Associate Professor for Sustainable Business and Clean Growth at Derby Business School added: “This growth is particularly encouraging in the context of the post-Covid economic recovery as it suggests there has been something of a ‘reset’ in how leaders are developing strategies to grow their business.”

“Although the economic climate is the harshest in decades, the net zero agenda presents plenty of opportunities for businesses that are ready to place the environment at the heart of their business strategy. Universities and other regional agencies have an enormous part to play, firstly helping local firms survive this winter and then to thrive in the increasingly sustainable, low carbon economy of 2023 and beyond. To do this, we need to re-think how we engage with the smallest and most vulnerable businesses”.

To achieve this, the University will soon be launching its Low Carbon Business Podcast and new resources to help SMEs Navigate the Journey to Net Zero that aim to help firms access the wealth of existing resources that support pro-environmental business transformation.

Dr Baranova will discuss findings from the research at the annual Sustainability Summit on Thursday 22 September at the University of Derby Enterprise Centre. To register for the free event, click here.

For more information on how to access support and funding for green growth, visit the Low Carbon Business Network and the Net Zero Pathways for SMEs


Previous trends reports can be found at:

Green growth trends in the East Midlands 2022

Pro-environmental business and clean growth trends for the East Midlands 2021

Pro-environmental business and clean growth trends for the East Midlands 2020