Finance & Management
Sustainability programmes by AIB
Sustainability programmes to help make the transition to being a more sustainable business today
by AIB
AIB research has found that nearly a quarter of businesses say they are not operating sustainably. The AIB SME Sustainability Research was carried out by Amárach Research, who surveyed 300 businesses (250 SMEs and 50 larger firms) in July 2022. 53% of businesses feel that they are only operating somewhat sustainably. All of us have a part to play as advisors to Irish SMEs in guiding them on their sustainability journeys.
There are many challenges facing Irish SMEs at present and there is an awareness of sustainability as being core to business and economic success. The next steps are commitment to action in your own areas of accountability and responsibility, and this will lead to tangible outcomes that each business can reach. This will collectively bring businesses to the achievement of building sustainable businesses and communities.

When asked about their progress on implementing measures to address climate change, 34% of businesses reported they are only beginning to do so and have a long way to go, while 6% don’t know where to start. Businesses listed “upfront investment costs” as the leading barrier for their organisations to act more sustainably, with 55% of businesses mentioning it as a barrier. Less than half (46%) of organisations with more than 250 employees plan to spend over €100,000 on sustainability over the next two years, and 51% of all organisations plan to spend less than €40,000. Other barriers included uncertainty of return on investment (38%) and a lack of clear sector guidelines or advice (35%).

people sitting at table with notepads and pencils in hands
Sustainability has become an increasingly important factor when making business decisions. Over the past two years, 44% of businesses have demanded more sustainable actions from their suppliers or switched to more sustainable suppliers. 44% of businesses have also purchased more sustainable equipment. Most businesses (62%) are aware that the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) is a potential source of advice to help them be more sustainable, but only 33% of businesses have availed of advice from them. 30% of businesses reported that they had not availed of advice from any public body.

Similar to the role that you play in your business or for your clients, we see our role as supporting our customers on their journey to develop and grow their business more sustainably, through funding, facilitation and advice. Sustainability needs commitment to actions and here are three programmes and information resources that will help you and your customers:

1. SBCI Energy Efficiency Loan Scheme – We’ve partnered with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) to bring you the SBCI Energy Efficiency Loan Scheme (EELS).
The scheme supports qualifying Irish businesses, including primary producers, by providing access to affordable medium to long-term finance, so that they can invest in the energy efficiency upgrade of their enterprise. This low-cost loan scheme is designed to help eligible SMEs and farmers cut their energy bills and reduce their carbon emissions by investing in energy-saving measures.

SMEs and farmers will benefit from lower interest rates, and finance amounts ranging from €10,000 to €150,000 over terms of up to 10 years. Eligible investments include a range of energy efficient equipment, as set out on the SEAI’s Triple E Register for Products, including solar panels, heating and cooling systems, LED lighting, EVs charging points, commercial appliances, lighting control systems amongst others. As the global energy crisis is putting Irish businesses under further additional stress, right after Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, the SBCI wants to make it easier for Irish SMEs to enhance their energy efficiency and reduce their costs.

June Butler, CEO of SBCI said, “Supporting sustainability and encouraging businesses to invest in energy efficiency measures as they respond to the ongoing increase of energy costs is a priority for us. I welcome AIB participating in the SBCI Energy Efficiency Loan Scheme. This is our first dedicated climate action related product and has been specifically designed to help Irish businesses to improve their sustainability, cut their energy bills and reduce their carbon emissions”.

Managing Director of AIB Retail Banking Jim O’Keeffe said, “Climate change is a critical challenge that Ireland must address. AIB and our customers, including SMEs, are focussed on reducing our carbon footprint by being more energy efficient, but these changes require investment. AIB is supporting our business customers in the green transition and is making this vital funding of €70 million available through the new SBCI Energy Efficiency Loan Scheme. Investments in energy efficient assets have provided some challenges for smaller businesses in the past. These loans will help support businesses transition faster to operating sustainably. For more information check out

2. Plan It with Purpose Discovery Tool and Green Hub
In early October Plan it With Purpose, a new programme to get small businesses ESG ready to support growth and profitability launched. This programme is delivered by small business support platform Enterprise Nation in partnership with AIB and GS1, and a range of ESG experts, the programme will encourage, upskill and support small businesses to go green over the next twelve months.

As part of the programme, small and medium size businesses will receive free support via a purpose-built online platform, including a diagnostic tool which delivers a tailored action plan with information detailing where to find the support, resources and advice to become more sustainable, e-learning content, and access to experts from the sustainability sector. The entire programme will run virtually, including events, in an effort to reduce the impacts of climate change and increase social purpose for good within the Irish business community.

Lorraine Greene, Head of Market Engagement Retail SME in AIB said “We are delighted to once again partner with Enterprise Nation in bringing useful and insightful resources to Irish SMEs. Sustainability is one of many challenges facing SMEs, and the Plan-it with Purpose programme will assist SMEs to focus on achieving their sustainability objectives. Green lending now accounts for 23% of AIB’s new lending, showing the transition to a greener future is underway, and demand for green loans is strong. AIB is committed to do more when it comes to sustainability and is delighted to support SMEs to take action now, recognising that sustainable businesses are at the heart of our communities across the country”.

The Plan it With Purpose initiative will help SMEs work out where they need to improve their performance and delivery via a digital diagnostic tool which will create an action plan and checklist to help brands define and achieve sustainability goals and offer relevant support and e-learning opportunities. For more information, please check out

3. Dublin Chamber Sustainability Academy
The Academy offers participating businesses a comprehensive range of supports, including training workshops, access to a dedicated series of sustainability events; green public procurement training; access to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP Ireland); support materials; and peer-to-peer idea sharing opportunities.  

Dublin Chamber has identified a need for these supports through surveys and focus groups with companies, facilitated by Amárach Research. Training and workshops will also be provided on carbon-footprinting, corporate sustainability and on the circular economy. Other core offerings will include helping participating companies, big and small, on the road toward carbon disclosure and practical advice on greening the supply chain is another aspect of the academy’s offering. A number of other services will be added to the Sustainability Academy offering over the coming months as the Chamber continues to work with businesses to identify the main supports they require.

For more information check out

We want to ensure a greener tomorrow by backing those who are building it today. By getting involved in these programmes you and the businesses you work in and advise can commit to actions that will sustain our communities.

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