Big firms called on to help their small suppliers reach net zero


Small Business Commissioner Liz Barclay has a simple net zero message for the UK’s big businesses: help your smaller suppliers begin the transition to lower-carbon ways of working and reap a dual benefit for yourselves.

As formal negotiations get going at the COP26 Summit in Glasgow, Ms. Barclay, who took over the Small Business Commissioner in July, called for action:

“My team and I focus on helping small businesses struggling to deal with the poor payment practices of larger firms. These often include late payments, short-notice contract variations or, even non-payment for work. These have a negative impact on the cashflow of a small business and aren’t acceptable. Given some of the wider challenges small businesses face post-Covid around debts, loan repayments and rising costs, waiting to get paid could stop them taking steps towards carbon reduction.

I’m calling on bigger customers to commit to simple and quick payment processes, give priority to paying small business invoices, and give practical help to their small suppliers. The win-win benefits will be huge. Larger firms get additional plaudits for their commitment to lower-impact, smaller scale business needs. Small businesses have confidence to plan and invest in their transition to a low carbon economy, and they benefit from the practical experiences shared with them by their bigger customers.

Take it a step further and you gain hero status with investors, customers and talented employees, as a firm that ‘does the right thing’: share net zero advice and best practice, pay for small suppliers to go digital or change to LED lightbulbs, or help them offset some of the initial costs of their first steps towards net zero.

Everyone wins and business relationships and supply chains are strengthened”.


Contact: Ian Dexter on 0121 221 2510

Notes to Editors:

The Office of the Small Business Commissioner (OSBC) was set up by government at the end of 2017. Following growing concern about the amount of money owed to small businesses (those with fewer than 50 staff) by large business customers (businesses with more than 50 staff), the establishment of the OSBC saw steps taken to try to reduce this kind of business-to-business debt.

Established under the Enterprise Act 2016, the OSBC has the task of helping small business owners throughout the UK deal with the impact and possible consequences of poor payment practices. Some of the areas that the casework team grapple with on a day-to-day basis include overdue invoices and delays to payments, the imposition of unreasonably long contract terms and sudden changes to payment arrangements resulting from wider commercial challenges.

Through the provision of free information and advice, and a programme of lobbying and influencing large business stakeholders, the OSBC works to keep payment issues at the forefront of UK business discussions.

Currently, the powers that the Small Business Commissioner and their team have access to are focused on helping to manage disputes between small business suppliers and larger business customers. The OSBC can work as an informal mediator between parties in a dispute, as well as offering information about other kinds of financial and legal help. Not all these services are directly linked to government: the OSBC can help small businesses make connections with local and third-sector agencies as well.

The OSBC team of expert caseworkers can provide:

  • • general advice and information about resolving payment disputes
  • • a signposting service to further support, and to dispute resolution services through the OSBC’s own website
  • • a complaints investigation service focused on incidences of poor payment practice between small businesses (those with 50 or fewer staff) and their larger business customers (those with more than 50 staff).

The OSBC has the power to make recommendations relating to these complaints and help with dispute resolution. The OSBC’s services are completely free to use, and investigations will be treated anonymously if requested.