By Nadeem Badshah
BRITISH Asian entrepreneurs have been praised by businesses and MPs for their work in trying to save the planet by tackling climate change.
Thirty tech start-ups addressing green issues have been chosen to join the world-first Net Zero support programme, business and energy secretary Alok Sharma recently announced.
The firms include electric transport business Antonym, co-founded by Revannth N Murugesan; Better Dairy, headed by Jevan Nagarajah, and returnable packaging service CupClub, launched by Safia Qureshi.
The group, announced by business consultancy firm Tech Nation, also includes companies creating vertical farms, animal-free dairy products and improving manufacturing and recycling supply chains.
And the UK, which aims to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, leads the way in Europe for the number of Net Zero companies – with 323 – compared to 207 in France and 150 in Germany.
Labour MP Khalid Mahmood told Eastern Eye: “Particularly in this moment, people are concerned about the virus and loved ones, so the work these people are doing is fantastic. We need to save the planet for future generations. The biggest polluters are businesses, so the business community plays a big part.
“[Tech Nation list] shows that BAME entrepreneurs and particularly the Asian community are involved in the forefront of that, coming through with fresh ideas and innovation while making their business work.”
Mahmood added: “East End Foods, near my Birmingham constituency, have done phenomenal work around organic planting of spices, vegetables and daals (pulses) in India. “They understand the harm of artificial fertilisers and use natural ones from by-products of cow dung, composting, wheat chaff, worms.”
Research from Tech Nation found that the UK leads the way for investment into Net Zero firms at £336 million from venture capital funds, 55 per cent more than France and 18 per cent more than Germany. And 37 per cent of UK Net Zero firms are at an early stage of growth, while 26 per cent per cent are more established.
Professor Sunitha Narendran, director of the University of Roehampton Business School in London, told Eastern Eye: “Tech Nation’s initiative is spot on as an external driver that will stimulate and catalyse internal drivers.
“The sector-specific approach taken also addresses a critical barrier identified by research that cautions against a one-size-fits-all sustainability approach.
“The drivers and barriers identified by research on sustainable practices in SME’s informs our entrepreneurship modules at Roehampton Business School and is also in line with Roehampton University’s commitment to environmental sustainability.”
She added: “The resilience of the entrepreneurship boom that started in 2008 makes the UK SME sector a significant contributor to the economy, employing approximately three million people across the country.
“The main drivers to SME sustainability adoption, according to existing academic research, are sustainability knowledge and awareness internally, and government led initiatives and peer-learning externally.”
The UK’s Net Zero sector has 323 tech firms working on slashing carbon emissions globally.
Zheela Qaiser, programme lead for the government-backed Net Zero Programme, said in September that 149 applications were received for the scheme, “showcasing the richness of solutions that small teams of innovators are working on to help us make monumental changes to the way our human world and systems impact our planet.”
Jaffer Kapasi OBE, who runs an accountants and business advisory firm in Leicestershire, said a small number of businesses have taken the green agenda seriously by reviewing the use of plastic in their manufacturing.
He added: “Those involved in packaging and redistribution use the latest technology and have reviewed their transportation method such as using electric cars.
“Also the impact of Covid-19 has reduced air travel with meetings taking place via Zoom or Microsoft software.
“The majority of the Asian businesses are in the SME sector with low margins and, in many cases, costs are prohibitive to introduce the process of change.”
“It will take a long time to create a new habit to follow green technology, especially in waste management, renewable energy and agricultural food technology.”
Business and energy secretary Sharma said: “As part of our plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050, we are funding green start-ups and unleashing the talent and creativity of entrepreneurs across the country.
“Innovative companies such as these will help us to create green jobs and build back better as we recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.”