Blog post

Why nurturing green business growth needs a radical new approach

There is encouraging growth in the numbers of green businesses in our region, but more needs to be done to increase the pace of this growth. Dr Polina Baranova, Senior Lecturer in Strategic Management at the University, explains why it is time for a bold new transformational approach to business support.

By Dr Polina Baranova - 5 October 2022

Green growth is at the heart of sustainable development, creating a balance between economic growth and our need to protect natural resources. New research by the University of Derby and East Midlands Chamber shows a big jump in businesses offering green products and services. According to the study, Green Growth Trends in the East Midlands 2022, there was a 29% increase in companies across Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire offering environmentally friendly goods and services between 2015 and 2022. These included energy efficiency and waste recovery services, as well as eco-food and drink products.

The study found a lot of other positives, with increasing numbers of businesses diversifying into green markets, and large businesses in particular actively pursuing green growth opportunities.

And yet there is more to do – we are not fulfilling our green growth potential in the region. Gaps in information and skills, and lack of funding, mean that 35% of businesses are still not engaging with green growth.

What skills are needed for green business growth?

The largest demands for skills development are in the areas of energy and resource efficiency, renewables, leadership for sustainability, environmental strategy and access to green finance. As businesses become more confident operating in the markets for green products and services, they are looking for skills to sustain competitive success longer term. Such skills need to be developed over time as they rely on internal capabilities for renewal, agility and quality. 

Addressing skill gaps in the area of competitive strategy towards green growth should allow businesses to not only protect their core business but capture the full value from sustainability – such as inclusive and partnership working with a broad range of stakeholders, as well as increased digitalisation. Delivered as a package of support measures, strategic and transformational skills development is part of a radically different approach to business support, moving away from the transactional, short-term interventions that currently prevail in pro-environmental business support programmes.

Policy for skills

Changes are also needed in regional and national economic policy, including the development of the support mechanisms which reduce skills and information gaps. This includes financial support and programmes to reskill and upskill the existing workforce as well as to invest in innovation towards net-zero. Collaborative networks of local government, businesses, policymakers, universities and the public should be part of the solution to bridge the information gaps, accelerate problem-solving towards sustainability and intensify the green growth opportunities in the region and nationally. 

Read the full report. 

For more information on how to access support and funding for green growth projects, visit our innovation and research pages or East Midlands Chamber's website.

About the author

Polina Baranova talking

Dr Polina Baranova
Associate Professor of Strategy and Sustainability

Polina Baranova is a Senior Lecturer in Strategic Management. Her research lies at the intersection of strategy, business and society. In particular, she specialises in the development of the environmental capabilities in various organisational settings through stakeholder engagement and stakeholder management.

View full staff profileView full staff profile