Launch of GoZero

Funded by the UK Energy Research Centre, ‘Governance for SME Decarbonisation’ is a 20-month project, involving members of the ZEE Network

Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) are essential, yet largely neglected actors in the governance of the UK’s energy transition. Collectively, SMEs consume about 50% of commercial and industrial energy, but are exempt from many business-focused energy and decarbonisation policies.

Unprecedented energy price increases are creating an existential threat to many businesses, which are not protected by a price cap. Multiple actors, including banks, industry associations and accreditation bodies have become more involved, with a variety of initiatives designed to support or incentivise strategic changes in SMEs, like investment in lower carbon heating and process technologies, and operational innovations. However, SMEs struggle to find reliable, relevant information on pathways to achieving Net Zero, while policymakers struggle to respond effectively given the sheer heterogeneity of the SME population and the relatively informal nature of firm-level decision-making.

As appetite for action grows in the business community, governance actors are failing to provide the clear guidance, strategic direction, and cross-sectoral coordination that is required.

This research project aims to provide a robust evidence base to support the multi-level governance of SME decarbonisation across the four UK nations. It has five objectives:

  1. Map the UK’s SME decarbonisation policy landscape and track changes across the four nations.
  2. Produce new empirical data, using detailed place-based studies to investigate SMEs’ existing practices and attitudes towards different sources of advice, support and/or direct provision.
  3. Examine the existing and potential role of different stakeholders in each of these governance arrangements, including the role of SMEs in policy decision-making.
  4. Develop a new conceptual understanding of how SMEs’ attitudes and actions are shaped by engagement with different forms of governance, support organisations, and types of intervention.
  5. Synthesise findings and produce actionable recommendations for policy and practice.
Katherine Sugar

Katherine Sugar


University of Edinburgh and University of Oxford

Policy and governance; energy efficiency

Will Eadson

Professor of Urban & Regional Studies

Sheffield Hallam University

Sustainability transitions, economic geography

Sam Hampton Profile Pic B&W Square

Sam Hampton


University of Oxford and University of Bath

Policy and governance; innovation; carbon capability


Richard Blundel

Professor of Enterprise & Organisation

Open University

Entrepreneurship, innovation, sustainability


Phil Northall


Sheffield Hallam University

Urban transitions, innovation, justice

News and Events

Recent news and activities of the ZEE Network

Launch of GoZero

GoZero is a new project funded by the UK Energy Research Centre, investigating the governance of SME decarbonisation.

Sheffield workshop, July 2022

The ZEE network held its first in-person workshop in Sheffield, in July 2022

Why is it so hard to engage SMEs on sustainability?

A report from the ZEE Network's 2nd workshop on the challenges of engaging SMEs.

First ZEE Workshop

The first ZEE Workshop was held in September 2021. It identified research priorities and gaps.