Industry will need to move faster to attain carbon emission reduction targets by 2030…sustainability seminar hears

Helen Downes, CEO, Shannon Chamber (centre) pictured at the Mid-West Sustainability Network seminar, held in Ei Electronics Centre of Excellence, with (from left): Dominic Schone, IDA Ireland; Odile Le Bolloch, EPA; Kathleen O’Regan, Enterprise Ireland; Padraic McElwee, LEO Clare. Aoife O’Sullivan, Skillnet Ireland; Barry Gavin, chair, Mid-West Sustainability Network; Pauline McDonagh, Southern Regional Waste Planning Office; and Fergus Sharkey, SEAI. Photograph by Eamon Ward


Businesses urged to avail of State funding for sustainability projects

While businesses are being encouraged to invest in sustainable products, services and business models to help Ireland reach its target of reducing carbon emissions (greenhouse gas emissions) by 51% by 2030, and to achieve a climate neutral economy by 2050, these targets will only be attainable if more companies avail of the wide range of sustainability supports available from our State Agencies.

This was the clear message emanating from a seminar organised by Shannon Chamber in association with IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Local Enterprise Office Clare, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), Skillnet Ireland, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Southern Regional Waste Planning Office. The event, which was hosted in Ei Electronics’ Centre of Excellence in Shannon, was delivered via the Chambers’ Mid-West Sustainability Network.

Network chairman Barry Gavin, opening the seminar, said that sustainability is no longer nice to have; it must be on the agenda of every company, regardless of size.

With the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) now mandatory for companies with more than 500 employees, and with those with more than 250 employees coming into the net from January 2025, and listed SMEs from January 2026, IDA Ireland’s Dominic Schone said that sustainability is a necessity at corporate level for all sectors.

Having already supported 63 Climate Action Plans and 29 Green Capital grants totally €44m, to remove 66k of tCO2, linked to over €155m of capex, and with 12 Green Capital grants approved in the last six months alone to remove 28k tCO2, IDA clients are clearly listening to this stark message.

Outlining how IDA Ireland can assist enterprise, Mr Schone said that the company has two Green supports for client companies – Green Plus, which enables companies to develop a site-specific Climate Action Plan (CAP); and Green Capital, which supports the purchase and installation of capital items necessary to deliver on the goals and objectives of a site-specific Climate Action Plan.

“These supports are intended to incentivise clients to make strategic investments to improve the environmental impact of their site operations,” he said.

Enterprise Ireland’s range of supports – Climate Action vouchers, GreenPlus, GreenStart and strategic consultancy – are also being availed of by SMEs and high-potential start-ups, according to Kathleen O’Regan, senior environmental advisor with the company.

“Climate Action vouchers, to the value of €1,800, can help companies develop an initial sustainability/decarbonisation or circular economy action plan,” she said.

“Up to €5,000 GreenStart support is available to companies to introduce environmental best practice systems to achieve cost and resource reduction. GreenPlus offers up to €50,000 support for training to build environmental management capability, whilst up to €35,000 funding is available to undertake environmental studies or contract consultancy services directly linked to investments,” she added.

Companies with less than fifty employees, with a turnover of €30,000 plus, that have been established for at least six months and are not IDA or Enterprise Ireland clients can avail of support from their Local Enterprise Office.

As advised by Local Enterprise Office Clare’s head of enterprise, Padraic McElwee, small businesses that are looking towards developing greener business practices, who have instigated some sustainable policies, or who may be starting from scratch, should apply for funding under LEO’s Green for Business programme.

“Companies are paired with a ‘Green Consultant’ who will provide them with two days of mentoring to deliver a report for their business that will help them understand the next steps in their sustainability journeys. This can be availed of twice. Companies can also consider GreenStart which offers eighty per cent funding, up to a maximum €5,000, for advisory services.

“We also offer energy efficiency grants to enable companies to invest in technologies and equipment. This grant, which can only be availed of once, is set at a minimum €1,000 with a maximum limit of €5,000. To avail of this grant, a company must own its own premises or have a long-term lease. The grant does not cover domestic or home offices,” Mr McElwee stated.

SEAI’s head of business supports and transport, Fergus Sharkey, an experienced leader in the sustainable energy sector, believes that the message needs to be simplified to encourage more businesses to give sustainability the attention it needs.

Having already supported 4000+ business with €45m grants, a figure that is expected to increase to €70m to 5,000 companies this year, SEAI has rationalised its grant offering. Rapid approval grants can be availed of for building upgrades and renewables whereas a more tailored support offering is available for industry decarbonisation. The full range of SEAI supports for industry can be found at

With over 92,000 people in 25,000+ companies having already acquired new skills via Skillnet Ireland’s enterprise-led approach to supporting their upskilling needs, there is evidential proof that companies can secure the skills they need to roll-out their sustainability initiatives.

Speaking at the seminar, Skillnet Ireland’s head of network development and innovation, Aoife O’Sullivan, said that while specific programmes are available through a number of Skillnet networks with a sustainability specialism, companies can approach their local Skillnet network, such as Shannon Chamber Skillnet, where linkages can be established to acquire the most appropriate training for a specific need.

Additional topics covered during this fast-paced seminar included management of food waste and waste management in general, with the EPA’s Odile Le Bolloch encouraging companies to sign up to the food waste charter –

“By committing to reduce food waste, companies can measure and identify potentially preventable waste, identify innovation opportunities, save money and reduce waste bills, meet and report on ESG/CSR commitments, and evaluate and monitor their progress. It’s a win: win for the environment and for the business,” she stated.

The Southern Regional Waste Planning Office’s Pauline McDonagh described waste as a “runaway train” but, if managed properly, can lead to a truly circular economy.

“Attaining zero per cent total waste growth will require enormous behavioural change,” she said, urging companies to avail of the free waste audit offered by her organisation to enable companies to assess where improvements in waste management can be made.

With so much information imparted in just a few hours, this seminar was described by attendees as ‘outstanding, and one of the most informative, well-organised and run events of its type’.

Shannon Chamber CEO Helen Downes accepted this accolade with modesty stating that it is the Chamber’s role and ambition to ensure that this region can, in time, become one of the most sustainable regions in Ireland.

“That’s why we set up the Mid-West Sustainability Network – to help companies roll-out sustainability initiatives. Seminars like there are so essential. Hearing what our state agencies have to offer by way of support is critical as many companies don’t know where to start so we need to help them in the best and most appropriate way possible.

“This was but one of the many supportive initiatives we will offer our members in the coming months leading up to our annual Sustainability Week later in the year. This is at planning stage,” she said.

The Mid-West Sustainability Network, set up by Shannon Chamber, is a member-led grouping with a sole purpose – to support companies in their sustainability journeys and in the delivery of their sustainability goals.