Skip to content
The researchers exploring SMEs' attitudes to Net Zero and social media.

The findings from the team, including leaders from the Centre for Professional and Economic Development (CPED) at the University’s Business School, are addressing a gap in understanding how Small to Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) view, learn about, adapt to, and boost UK environmental ambitions.

They consider how social media contributes to both aims and barriers for SMEs in the countdown to Net Zero, defined by the UK Government as the point at which greenhouse gas emissions are balanced by greenhouse gas removal or negative emissions. The strategy to tackle climate change includes policies and plans for decarbonisation and carbon neutrality. The Government has set a target for all sectors of the UK economy to reach Net Zero by 2050.

The research team comprises: Dr Alex Fenton, Associate Professor and Head of the CPED; colleague and Programme Manager, Chris Koral; Dr Wasim Ahmed from the University of Stirling, and Professor Maz Hardey, of the University of Durham.

Their new approach uses an Action Case (AC) technique drawing upon a qualitative survey with SMEs alongside a Social Network Analysis (SNA) of Twitter data, recognising the significance of examining social media content and networks that most effectively communicate about and persuade SMEs to adopt Net Zero business objectives. The results are an enlightening paper and a recent presentation to the British Academy of Management on ‘Exploring SMEs attitudes to Net Zero and social media: Action Case research as a force for good’.

The research highlights how many of the UK’s 5.6 million private sector businesses are SMEs but, lacking the infrastructure of larger organisations, further challenges can be created in meeting Net Zero targets. 

Dr Fenton explained that awareness of these challenges and views on them are currently limited but the research aimed to shed new light and find new ways to support SMEs.   

He said: “Despite the hype around Net Zero, we don’t really understand enough about how SMEs and micro companies are dealing with the Net Zero challenge and their attitudes towards it.

“Our study found that some companies had a good handle on this and had adopted sustainability and Net Zero as part of their social media communications, whereas many companies did not know where to start. This demonstrates that we need to understand more about this important topic and look at ways to upskill individuals and organisations to not only capitalise on sustainability for new products and services, but to weave this into the company ethos, internal and external communications.”

The research puts forward potential new strategies focused on areas such as developing business leaders within organisations with expertise in Net Zero policy to engage in conversations, and using social media to enhance training and professional development networks.

The full Journal Paper can be read at:

To find out more about the research, or the University of Chester’s Knowledge Transfer Partnerships - research collaborations between Higher and Further Education and other institutions and companies - please email:

Share this content