Why carbon consultancy needs to be free to SMEs

We explain elsewhere in detail why the See Through Carbon pilot focuses on small and medium enterprise (SMEs). In summary, SMEs: emit most emissions can’t afford to pay to use proprietary carbon auditing standards * can’t afford to pay professional consultants for carbon-reducing advice

We’ve also outlined our innovative incentive for customer-facing SMEs to sign up to the See Through Carbon pilot — free advertising in popular local Facebook Notice Board groups.

We’ve also explained why if their big business clients haven’t arlready started requiring their SME supply chain to report their carbon footprins upwards, they soon will.

Here’s another incentive. This one works for all businesses, both customer-facing and business-to-business (B2B), whether or not they are part of a long supply chain — free carbon consulting worth hundreds of pounds.

What’s in it for me?

Busy, beleaguered SMEs are entitled to be wary of committing to any additional burden.

Running a business is hard enough, but when you’ve survived Covid only to be hit with an economic downturn, soaring costs and rising interest rates, even the most climate-aware SME owners approached for the pilot are entitled to ask What’s in it for me?’.

They, their customers and suppliers are all squeezed by the same pressures. Our pilot SME candidates need a clear explanation of how participation will benefit them.

Free advertising may be enough to convince those businesses who already regularly post in the thriving community Notice Board groups in Chippenham and Salisbury being used for Phase 1 of the Pilot.

But to generate dataset convincing enough to persaude big businesses to mandate their supply chain to use it as their reporting standard, See Through Carbon needs the broadest possible range of SMEs, including those that:

  • serve other businesses, so don’t benefit from free advertising to the general community
  • have not yet realised they can reach far more local customers for free than they can by paying their local papers
  • don’t think Facebook advertising alone justifies signing up

What’s the free consultancy offer?

The carbon consulting industry, like the carbon standard, industry, is focused on big businesses. Big businesses may only produce half the emissions of their SME supply chains , but critically, they have the money to pay for carbon standards and carbon-reducing consultancy.

Such specialist consultancy is well beyond the means of most SMEs. When you’re struggling to pay your next energy bill, you can’t afford to pay thousands of pounds for a consultant, even if they can assure you following their advice will cut your costs in the long run. The spirit may be willing, but cash-flow means you can’t afford to find out.

So offering SMEs the kind of expert advice that costs big businsses thousands of pounds is a very attractive incentive to sign up to the See Through Carbon pilot.

Who are the consultants?

See Through Carbon volunteers, in short. Carbon auditing professionals prepared to volunteer their time, experience and expertise to support the pilot. Many are members of the Association of Sustainability Practitioners, an international community of sustainability practitioners with a wide diversity of skills and practices, learning and acting together to create truly sustainable futures’.

They usually charge big businesses substantial fees, but are volunteering their services pro bono because they understand the need to provide a free service for SMEs.

What’s in it for them?

As experts who spend all day dealing with it, these volunteer carbon consultants: understand all too well how broken the current carbon accounting system is.
know how urgently a replacement is required are convinced by See Through Carbon’s logic that any replacement has to be open-source, transparent, accurate and free. understand SMEs precarious cash flows and limited resources * know they can’t afford the kind of fees paid by big businsses

What kind of consultancy will pilot SMEs get?

Our expert volunteers will give a structured list of recommendations, consiting of three different levels of advice.


This is the low-hanging fruit still left unpicked by so many businesses, which often cost nothing and can be implemented immediately, and which apply universally across all sectors: switching to renewable energy suppliers, lowering thermostats, converting to electric vehicles, providing showers to encourage cycling to work.


Other advice will be generally applicable to an SME’s particular sector: retail, services, hospitality, manufacturing, distribution etc.


Unique advice based on an SME’s individual circumstances, as reported via the See Through Carbon app. This reflects particular variables, such as location, how customers access you, particular equipment or technology your business uses etc.

All advice will, so far as possible, be specific about: the cost of implementation the financial savings the carbon reduction how long the benefits are likely to take


This consultancy, like See Through Carbon, is based on the principle of transparency. A summary of the advice given, together with the projected cost and carbon reduction benefits, will be made publicly visible via the SME’s page in the See Through Carbon database.

Data Training, AI and Automation

As the pilot database grows, the carbon reducing projections made by the consulants, if implemented, can be measured against actual results over time.

As it grows, this open source database will become an increasingly powerful training dataset’ for automation AIs. In turn, this will reduce the need for human consultancy at SME level. Their expertise will always be required for bespoke solutions for their current big business clients — the bigger and more complex a business, the more bespoke any solution is likely to be, and the less than can afford to rely on an AI.

For SMEs however, AI automation, if based on high quality data like that generated by the pilot, is likely to be provide excellent outcomes, at zero cost. The challenges faced by a plumber in Wiltshire are unlikely to be significantly different from those faced by a plumber in Cumbria, London, or Glasgow. Or, indeed, in Lagos, Osaka or Montevideo.

Free, AI-generated advice based on high quality training data may be 90% better than no advice at all. This pilot is the first step to making such advice, and the data supporting it, available at zero cost to every SME on the planet with an internet connection.

What’s the catch?

Transparency, in so far as that’s a catch. SMEs only qualify for free consultancy if they select Public Mode, i.e. they allow a summary of their carbon footprint to be publicly visible, like their financial statements lodged at Companies House.

This public page will also include a summary of the consultants’ advice. Making the advice, and seeing the impact on an SME’s Relative Score over time once implemented, is a key driver for other SMEs to sign up.

It also serves a critical educational purpose. Making this information public means any SME, anywhere in the world, can benefit from the free advice given.