Are you concerned how the future will unfold for your children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces?

Ensuring stability for future generations. Shouldn’t that objective be the foremost priority for all of us? Certainly, anyone with children, grandchildren, nephews, or nieces must surely be concerned about what the future holds for them.

But who is responsible for ensuring we leave a legacy to be proud of? Would you like to be thought of as a #GoodAncestor?

I think we can all acknowledge that it would be more than a little foolhardy to rely on a government of any political persuasion to ‘fix the future.’ We need to ensure there is considerably more grass roots activity. And small businesses have a huge role to play. Ultimately, each and every one of us needs to ask ourselves these questions:

“What legacy am I leaving future generations? What can I do to help protect their future? What should I be doing?”

At this point, I expect a large percentage of readers are expecting this to be a climate change/net zero call to action.

 It isn’t.


Should we be considering next generation resilience?


Yes, of course, averting the climate crisis is hugely important. But it isn’t the only problem that is looming large. It isn’t the only challenge or fear that is already sitting heavily on the shoulders of young people – even before they have started to make their own way in the world. We really do need to be considering #NextGenResilience

Now, let me be very clear. Nothing I say in this article, or the ‘Ensuring Stability for Future Generations’ campaign we are about to launch at the Organisation for Responsible Businesses, is intended to decry the magnitude of the climate crisis and the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions.

What we do want to change is the narrative, particularly the net zero rhetoric.  Why? Because it is becoming counter-productive in so many ways. Because we believe a more holistic and inclusive approach will yield more authentic and widespread carbon reduction results.


Why do we believe the Net Zero messaging is no longer working?


  1. The current messaging has become so omnipresent that many small business owners, especially those currently facing multiple business challenges, are becoming immune to the messaging.
  2. Conversely, other business owners see net zero as a ‘badge of honour’ to achieve. And there’s nothing wrong with that if the process is authentic. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly evident that many just want to ‘tick the box’ in the easiest possible way.

When this tick box approach is adopted, there is little or no genuine attempt to assess and reduce emissions across all aspects of the business.

There is lots of off-setting, and not all the offsetting is wisely chosen and therefore maybe completely ineffective.

There is no engagement with employees or any other stakeholders (apart from flag waving for marketing purposes, which is more likely to alienate than inspire if motives and approach are questionable.)

Do we need to save the planet?


Have we forgotten why we need to reduce carbon emissions? Oh, of course, to ‘save the planet.’ Really?

Reality check. Planet Earth will survive any degree of climate change, but humanity may not. Neither will most of the creatures we share this planet with. Yet if we do manage to tame climate change, does that alone mean that future generations can look forward to a vibrant future?

We all know it doesn’t ensure #StabilityForTheFuture

Yet the net zero messaging is encouraging us to focus on just one challenge.

Life is a balancing act and if we veer to hard in any one direction, the consequences can be disastrous. If we don’t allow sufficient focus on the broad range of social and environmental challenges facing us, our society will become increasingly broken.

This article is not intended to spread doom and gloom. Rather, the intent is to spread hope and encourage action, because we can all be part of the solution. But we can only be part of the solution if we acknowledge the problems and then take action in the way that is most appropriate for us as individuals and us as small businesses owners.


What challenges are we facing in the UK?


So, let’s take another reality check and consider some of the other social and environmental challenges we face in the UK. And as we’ll see, there is considerable interplay between these challenges.

A few additional environmental challenges:

  • Biodiversity loss, some of which is climate related. The UK is classified as one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries and much of our biodiversity loss is due to pollution, destruction of habitats, and overexploitation of the natural environment.

Most of us are aware of the chronic loss of pollinators in the UK that can result in decreased crop yields. Yet the ecosystem of our natural world is more complex than we are probably aware, and the loss of just one species can impact an entire food chain.

  • Air pollution, which is cited as the single biggest environmental threat to health in the UK.
  • Water pollution of our lakes and rivers caused largely by fertiliser and pesticides in agriculture, untreated sewage released by water companies, and plastic waste.
  • Soil erosion and degradation
  • Litter and waste, with far too much still going to landfill, including but not limited to general waste, plastics, e-waste, food waste.

Where do we begin with societal challenges? Some problems we have little control over. Although with many issues it’s possible to make a positive contribution, once again  on a level that is appropriate for us as individuals and small business owners.

  • We have a broken health and social care system which is failing people from all walks of life. Of particular concern are:
    • An ageing society living longer but often in ill-health and a degraded quality of life.
    • Young adults with increasing mental health issues who have little, if any, access to appropriate support.
    • Increasing percentages of babies and young children with allergic and neurodevelopmental disorders not supported adequately in the health or educational systems.
    • An obesity epidemic that intensifies year on year.

There may not be a great deal we can do to directly support the health and social care system. Yet we can take more responsibility for our health and wellbeing. Perhaps we can eat a more wholesome diet and avoid toxins in our cleaning and personal care regimes and encourage others to do the same.

  • Lack of food security. Millions living in poverty are already dependent on foodbanks to ensure they have sufficient food. But, as we have witnessed in recent years, climate change, wars, disease and decline in pollinators all have an impact on the global food market.

The UK imports 48% of the total food we consume or, more accurately, 48% of food purchased (let’s not forget the high percentage of food waste that still exists) and is increasingly likely to be impacted by the volatility of global markets.

We need to strive for self-sufficiency at national, community and individual levels.

  • A cost-of-living crisis that is currently abating but may intensify yet again due to external factors such as wars and climate change.
  • Insufficient affordable housing stock resulting in a generation where, for many, owning or even renting their own home seems outside the realms of possibility.
  • Homelessness and poverty
  • An education system that in not meeting all levels of need and is further threatened by unsafe buildings.
  • Gang violence and knife crime which is increasingly rife in our streets.
  • Hate crime and hostility motivated by race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and transgender identity.
  • A generation of young people from households where adults have never worked or were long-term unemployed who feel ignored, dispirited and have no or little aspirations for the future.

A suffering planetary population can’t enable environmental flourishing


When people’s circumstances cause extreme suffering and pain, physically, mentally, or psychologically, the climate crisis is a long way down their list of priorities; pizza and a can of coke is the food of choice rather than a healthy meal; and being a member of a gang can feel like ‘family’ and a lifeline to wealth, rather than the reality of a prison sentence or possibly death.

If we consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, the two base levels are:

  1. Food, water, shelter, clothing, sleep, reproduction
  2. Personal security, health, employment, property

In the UK, many people live below this base levels of needs.

We often speak about the true meaning of sustainability. A quote from that article is very pertinent:

A suffering planetary population can’t enable environmental flourishing, nor can human flourishing persist on a suffering planet.

Perhaps you are familiar with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

Hunger and poverty is rife in the UK

At first glance, one might intuitively think that many of the goals, especially the more people-orientated goals, relate only to developing countries. Yet in 2024, it’s tragic that we still need to work towards achieving goals such as no poverty, zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, quality education, and gender equality. In fact, the majority of the 17 SDGs are relevant to this country.

Goal 17 of the SDGs is “Partnerships For The Goals.” If 5 million small business become partners for those goals, how enormous could our impact be?

And so, each and every one of us must take the burden of some of that responsibility. We need a collaborative grass roots approach to making a positive societal impact. We have to take positive action.

We have to maintain a holistic approach to sustainability. One that, of course, includes carbon reduction. But one that also never ceases to consider people and the broader environmental agenda.

We continue to support the net zero agenda. And we continue to champion our wonderful members who are championing carbon reduction. But please, let’s change the narrative. Let’s take a more holistic approach. Let’s always ensure we are caring about people.

If you embrace our Ensuring Stability for Future Generations campaign, please share your thoughts and actions on social media channels using these hashtags:





Communication, Collaboration and Commitment

As a small business owner, we fully understand that you have limited time and resources. Nonetheless, using our much-loved phrase ‘Doing Good is Good for Business,’ getting involved in the local community can provide numerous benefits on a personal and business level.

And let’s be realistic, it does not have to be huge amounts of time and effort. What we can do, what’s right for us and our business, will vary for everyone. Yet there is a common essence to what we need to do: communication, collaboration and commitment.

Working together as small businesses and supporting our local communities, and always taking a holistic approach, we can make positive impacts socially and environmentally. For each of us, our focus may be different. Perhaps we could offer pro-bono work to a charity, become a trustee of a charity or a school governor, join a mentoring programme at a local school or college, volunteer our time, gift to foodbanks….

Why not considering attending monthly People, Planet, Pint or People, Planet, Pastry events in your local area. They tend to have a carbon reduction focus, but the mix of community and environment is exactly the approach we advocate.

The options, the opportunities, are endless.

Collectively, a big caring community hug delivered by hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions of small businesses can epitomise the route to ensuring stability for future generations.

Will you join us in being part of that great big hug?