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South Downs business initiative leads green economic recovery



South Downs business initiative leads green economic recovery

An exciting new business initiative launches today, aimed at tackling climate change, helping nature and kickstarting a green recovery for the region’s economy following the pandemic.

Our South Downs has been created to provide an innovative network where businesses and organisations can connect with each other, share services and products, and work together towards sustainability.

The initiative has been launched by the South Downs National Park Authority’s Enterprise Team and is open – and free to join – to all businesses in and around the National Park.

There are currently just under 8,000 businesses within the National Park, with tens of thousands more in surrounding towns and cities across Hampshire, Sussex and Surrey. With 19 million visitors a year, the National Park area already contributes around £5.8bn to the UK economy.

The initiative has a number of key elements to help businesses:

  • Launching this autumn, businesses will be able 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, said: “Our South Downs could not be launching at a better time. 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’ since the pandemic and more customers are looking at the range of products and services on their doorstep, particularly in the tourism and food and drink sector. These two societal shifts create lots of new opportunities that businesses in the region can capitalise on.

“We know so many businesses are passionate about the National Park and welcome the opportunities of having this treasured landscape and its huge visitor economy. 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.”

Our South Downs is an important part of the National Park Authority’s journey towards achieving its nature recovery targets by 2030 – increasing the amount of land managed for nature from the current 25 per cent to 33 per cent. A climate change target of net zero for the National Park by 2040 is also key.

To find out more about joining Our South Downs visit the brand-new website at oursouthdowns.co.uk  

  • Some key stats:
    • Businesses in the National Park provide jobs for more than 54,000 people.
    • Private businesses own or manage 70 per cent of the landscape in the National Park.
    • There are over 800 visitor-based businesses in the National Park, including around 340 food and drink businesses.
    • There are well over 1,000 land-based businesses in the National Park, working across the farming, forestry, horticulture, wine and environmental sectors.
  • The Government has placed two statutory purposes and a duty on all National Parks. Purpose 1: To conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area. Purpose 2: To promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the National Park by the public. Duty: To seek to foster the social and economic wellbeing of the local communities within the National Park in pursuit of our purposes.