Business network ‘Our South Downs’, led by the South Downs National Park Authority, has already welcomed over 140 business members, working together to tackle climate change, shorten supply chains, protect our landscape, and work towards a net zero and sustainable future.
There are currently just under 8,000 businesses in the National Park, with tens of thousands more in surrounding towns and cities across East and West Sussex and Hampshire. With 19 million visitors a year, and being the largest National Park for commercial income generation, the South Downs region already contributes around £5.8bn to the UK economy.
Many businesses are taking active steps to reduce their environmental impact and help protect and enhance this treasured landscape. This includes reducing their carbon footprint, using sustainable materials, and investing in renewable energy sources. Additionally, some businesses are also supporting local conservation projects that help to preserve the area’s unique flora and fauna.
By working together, businesses can ensure the South Downs National Park remains an important part of England’s natural heritage for generations to come.
The ‘Our South Downs’ business network brings together these businesses and provides the means for them to connect, share products and services and join forces in their quest for sustainability.
It also provides them access to a monthly newsletter with the resources, knowledge, and support they need to achieve net zero.
Membership to the network is FREE and includes multiple benefits, such as:
• The opportunity to join an internationally-recognised “Green South Downs” certification scheme that champions sustainability. The National Park is partnering with Green Tourism, which helps businesses adopt greener ways to operate, such as reducing single-use plastics, reducing carbon footprint, making it easy for employees to recycle and creating a green outdoor space to boost biodiversity. This will be open to both tourism and non-tourism businesses.
• FREE business mentoring session from the Association of Business Mentors.
• Members can access a free downloadable toolkit of business resources provided by Sussex Innovation Centre.
• A regularly-updated online portal with information for businesses to help with planning, tourism and land-based schemes, as well as search for and connect with other like-minded businesses.
• Advice and support around maximising energy efficiency and creating stronger supply chains.
• Information on new funding opportunities when they become available.
• Discounted venue hire at sites run by the National Park Authority.
Nick Heasman, Countryside and Policy Manager, who leads Our South Downs, comments, “Businesses have had an incredibly challenging time over the past two years, but one of the positives has been a greater desire to collaborate and work together.
“Sustainability is higher on the agenda than ever before for business leaders, and we hope this new initiative will help organisations work towards a greener, more prosperous future and really strengthen their environmental credentials. We’ve also seen a real shift towards ‘buy local’ and more customers are looking at the range of products and services on their doorstep, particularly in the tourism and food and drink sector.
“We know so many businesses are passionate about the National Park, and Our South Downs brings all the information, resources and green innovation together in one place and we hope it will help strengthen the local economy over the coming years.
“Ultimately, we want to provide new opportunities for businesses to thrive and also help our precious environment at the same time.”
Businesses that have joined are already reaping the rewards on their sustainability journey.
Stella Gurney, of Woodfire Camping, which provides gastro campsites in the National Park, says, “Our South Downs is a brilliant organisation. It makes so much sense to have a joined-up approach to supply chains, waste management and so on as we all try to achieve net zero, as well as to project this collaborative culture across the South Downs National Park to its residents and its many visitors.
“A clear, cohesive identity and voice makes so much more sense than all trying to make ourselves heard individually, drowning ourselves out in the process. Maybe we should have a South Downs anthem!”
The network has also produced six stylish ‘Meet the Business Videos’ to showcase some of the fantastic businesses in Our South Downs. The films reveal what they do, their relationship to the National Park and their journey to sustainability.
The value of economic enterprise in the National Park is immense. Businesses provide jobs for more than 54,000 people and private businesses own or manage 70% of the landscape in the National Park. There are over 800 visitor-based businesses, including around 340 food and drink businesses, plus well over 1,000 land-based businesses in a variety of sectors.
To find out more about Our South Downs and how to join visit www.oursouthdowns.co.uk
You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01730 814810.