A NEW business initiative has launched, aimed at tackling climate change, helping nature and kick-starting 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.

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.

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.

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“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.”

To find out more about joining Our South Downs visit oursouthdowns.co.uk.

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Kimberley Barber