SMEs Approach to Climate Change: “Small Changes Make a Big Difference”


Jenny Tiew

Jenny Tiew

Zhibo Gao

Zhibo Gao

joseph anaelechi

joseph anaelechi


Dublin City University Business School

Dublin City University Business School


Gavin Brown

Gavin Brown

Roisin Lyons

Roisin Lyons

Global Goals

6. Clean Water and Sanitation 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 13. Climate Action

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“We do what we can.” (Peter Norton, 2021)

Poppies caters to 5 prominent UN Sustainable Development Goals:

1. SDG 6 Clean water

2. SDG 9 Innovation and infrastructure

3. SDG 11 Sustainable cities and communities

4. SDG 12 Responsible consumption and production

5. SDG 13 Climate action

Poppies is different from other sustainable coffee shops because the owner is taking active measures to tackle climate change. Most coffee shops generally focus on recyclable packaging, whereas Poppies uses recyclable packaging and implements other measures such as rainwater harvesting. Peter had emphasised that “The cost of green waste is the cheapest…. You pay 3 cents more for recyclable cups but the costs of getting rid of them is more expensive. It’s not more expensive to go greener.”

Poppies has also altered their infrastructure by implementing solar tubes, induction hobs, and energy-saving bulbs to generate and save electricity. Not many coffee shops are willing to make such drastic measures for climate change. The infrastructural measures implemented help solve environmental issues and reduce the acceleration of climate change.


Poppies has been engaged in many environmentally innovative strategies, including eco-friendly energy sources, encouraging cycling, recycling procedures, supply chain management, rainwater harvesting, and more.

Firstly, Poppies uses eco-friendly energy sources; it has invested in green technology through its 2x2 twenty tube meter solar panel that contributes significantly to its hot water needs. The solar contribution to hot water is 1156kWH per annum.

All of our hot water is generated by the solar tubes,

Peter Norton (2021)

In September 2020, Poppies invested in the air to the water heat pumps from Glenergy; “this technology helps produce all the hot water by using the heat from the kitchen.” Furthermore, they have also made use of induction hobs which are metal censored; these hobs turn on as soon as the pot is placed on it for cooking and turn off as soon as it is taken out, helping to save energy. Peter has also been creative in using his dishwasher; “we use water at a temperature of 54℃ instead of 6℃, which uses less energy to heat the water.”

Secondly, they use recyclable takeaway cups and packaging, compostable straws and cutlery, and even reusable takeaway cups. This reduces additional waste being sent into the landfill.

Poppies has introduced 'slug-free gardening.' They package coffee granules and give them out for free. Granules have a high pH value of 6.9, are suitable for nitrogen plants, and repel slugs. This prevents the granules from being released into the waste in which not many coffee shops or restaurants are doing, making Poppies a unique coffee shop.

Poppies recently partnered with Squid loyalty, an electronic system that enables customers to avail of their loyalty programme without paper cards. Contrary to most loyalty cards, by using Poppies' virtual system, customers help to plant more trees. This is because every time a virtual card is filled, a native Irish tree is planted. This allows customers to feel positive about their contribution to tackling climate change.

The final initiative that we will discuss is Poppies' partnership with H2ozone on a project to harvest rainwater. After Poppies introduced the filtering system and storage tank, poppies have collected and harvested rainwater, which is much cleaner than local water. This water is used in all cafes' taps and toilets.

"The harvested rainwater had 15 microns of impurities which were 4 times cleaner than bottled water was at source, 200 microns of impurities."

The installation of push taps in the toilets has helped to ensure that water is not being used unnecessarily. The wasted water is filtered through a grease trap, the Big Dipper W-220-IS, to remove debris and oil before the water leaves the premises and enters the system. "This method complies with F.O.G. (Fats, Oils, and Grease) legislation and helps the local water treatment facility," ensuring that the environment is not further polluted.

SMEs Approach to Climate Change:  “Small Changes Make a Big Difference”


Peters' inspiration to innovate stems from three key elements:

1: Environment

It was illustrated from the outset that Peter is highly passionate about his actions and contributions to the environment. This is the fundamental reason Peter's inspiration to innovate exists. From the energy-saving lights, push taps, induction hobs, recyclable cups, and the drive to decrease energy usage via dishwashers, immersion, and cookers are all: "Small measures that make a big difference to our environment."

Over zoom, Peter walked us around the restaurant showing us every detail of the business, his pride in the environmentally-conscious initiative evident. As he argues, "the environmental impact of any activities conducted by Poppies was at the forefront of each decision." He even compared his SME to conventional supermarkets, stating:

"I don't know how they sleep at night, do all their products really need double, treble packaging? They have the power to change stuff like this but decide not to".

He also mentioned his aspiration to work as a consultant for the OPW (Office of Public Works):

"the government don't do any good initiatives; we don't see solar panels on schools, colleges, government buildings or anything."

His motivation for constant innovation derives entirely from his dedication to help the environment and lower his carbon footprint.

2: Financial Gain

Peter was meticulous about numbers. He knew the costs associated with every element of his business. He reiterated that making the initial investment in energy-efficient and more environmentally friendly products was cheaper and better financially. On arguing this, he proposed the question: "I don't know why everyone doesn't go green?".

Peter told us that he didn't turn on the immersion from April till October 2020. Instead, Poppies' infrastructure "absorbs the hot air from the restaurant and transfers it to produce hot water." This saves energy in heating the water, which reduces costs effectively. Poppies invested in energy-efficient flat grills that cook several items simultaneously faster. Also, with their cooking technology, Poppies uses induction hobs that automatically turn off when not used. This ensures that costs are not increased due to wastage of energy when not in use.

Around the kitchen, the dishwater Peter's dishwasher functions by inserting water at 54℃ instead of 6℃, thus requiring less energy to heat the water and saving costs. Further cost reductions come from solar tubes and panels, reducing the electricity requirement. These initiatives are better for the environment AND save money! For example, Peter explained that the "heat pump alone had was 6% cheaper than using gas," reducing his expenses.

3: Inspiring the Next Generation

Peter's passion for his business was evident, but the impact that Poppies and other businesses will have on future generations was at the centre of every concern. He began by saying,

"For me, it's a personal thing I've got kids, and from the environmental point of view, I want to do more good rather than bad."

Being a positive example to his children and the next generation was important. "We should use our influence to make positive changes for the world around us". The goal for Poppies is for society, the younger generations, and Peter's kids to care about climate change and not make the same mistakes others have made in the past.

Overall impact

The overall impact of Poppies’ sustainability measures is an increase in profits and a decrease in carbon footprint. “Everything Poppies do as a restauranteur is to be as efficient and effective as possible, both financially and environmentally.” Let’s look at their innovations:

  • Unlike other coffee places that put their used coffee granules in the compost bin, Poppies bag them and give them to their customers for free. This has resulted in a 26% reduction in disposal costs for Poppies! (Poppies, 2021) It increases customer loyalty and, to top it all off, helps the environment! A reduction in the compiling of compost is a reduction in Co2 emissions into the air. Thus, providing both short- and long-term benefits to society and their business.
  • Poppies only use recyclable cups and eco-friendly packaging, reducing waste in the landfill. Peter stated that “Poppies were one of the first to use recyclable takeaway cups.” They have saved 470,000 cups ending up in the landfill. This for an SME is quite astonishing. Also, Poppies encourage reusable cup use; they offer consumers a 25c discount on each coffee should the customer use a keep cup or reusable vessel. Once again, they’ve managed to gain short-term customer loyalty and long-term environmental benefit.
  • A massive contributor to Co2 emissions is petroleum-based vehicles. Poppies aim to encourage people to cycle instead of using their cars when going for their bite to eat or daily coffee. Why not cycle? Peter and his team have provided ample space for bike racks to attract and encourage more cyclists. This has a positive long-term impact on the environment; this investment has attracted a lot of cyclists.
  • Poppies' 'Do Good' culture of buying only local and incentive to use eco-friendly and carbon neutral will undoubtedly help the environment. Their Corporate Social Responsibility embroiled culture will attract a long-term impact on the business.
  • Investments in harvested rainwater, dishwasher innovation, solar panels, heat pump, energy-efficient grills, and induction hobs are all innovations Poppies has made to be more environmentally conscious. All these minor changes make such a big difference to our carbon footprint. Everything they do is about the long-term impact on the environment.

Business benefit

As a company that has made outstanding contributions to environmentally sustainable development, Poppies promotes the development of environmental protection and bring many benefits to it.

Revenue raised

Due to Poppies constant innovation and investment in environmental initiatives like the “slug free gardening” initiative reducing 26% of waste costs and improving the company’s environmental image. Poppies’ reusable cups mitigate the costs of continuous purchasing of disposable cups. The availability of bicycle facilities attracts cyclists and environmentally conscious customers to the café, increasing revenue. As previously stated, their environmentally-friendly equipment reduces energy consumption, ultimately leading to a decrease in costs. Similarly, lowering costs in enterprise management is equivalent to increasing benefits. In the global advocacy of green consumption, more Irish consumers take environmental sustainability as the reason for purchase.

Poppies has maintained a consistent revenue in revenue generated during the past year through their dedication to creating a safe environment with social distancing and sanitary systems.

Consumer’s wellbeing

Poppies have put their employees and consumers as their number 1 priority. Peter mentioned the emphasis he puts on creating a family culture around his restaurant and caring for all involved. He implemented a sanitary system to ensure the safety of consumers and employees. A sanitary system generates a unique form of oxygen, ozone (03), provides customers with a safe dining environment and working environment for employees and customers.

Employee’s wellbeing

Poppies give their employees a lot of care in life. They often organize enjoyable group-building activities with their employees and provide them with a celebratory birthday cake and a staff/consumer singsong. Poppies also provide work experience for transition year students. The result of doing so is that Poppies employees are delighted at work, which means that employees have high satisfaction and staff retention. Employees feel satisfied that they are contributing to a positive impact on the environment by working for an environmentally friendly café. “As they are full of enthusiasm in their work, they (the staff) improve work efficiency and bring good customer service. In this way, customers can get high-quality service to attract more customers”.

Social and environmental benefit

Poppies' initiatives benefit both society and the environment. These measures assist in primarily addressing climate issues and establishing a sustainable community. Current and future stakeholders can enjoy food from a socially responsible corporate company. Local businesses are profitable with the partnership, and supplies are responsibly produced. ( SDG 11 & 12) Poppies' operating practices provide a competitive advantage and improve the community's economic and social conditions, recognised as "creating shared value."

The innovation helps to generate clean water from recycled rainwater (SDG 6) and handle climate change (SDG 13). The measures implemented are innovative and help to contribute to a sustainable environment. (SDG 9)

Energy conservation, such as using sensors and energy-saving bulbs, can reduce unnecessary energy consumption. Re-usage cups are incentivised by a discount in which Poppies have reduced cups being disposed of. Small actions taken can positively impact the environment in the long term; as Peter had emphasised "It is the small matter that makes the big difference."

Creating renewable energy from solar panels is slow in Ireland. In the modern era, the planet is suffering from the consequences of climate change; this causes the environment and the planet to become unsustainable if immediate actions are not taken. Ireland missed the 2020 Targets as set out in the Paris Agreement. The National Projections Report estimated that Ireland only reduced emissions by 1%, and only 14% came from renewable sources. Generating energy from renewable sources would reduce the reliability of fossil fuels and decrease carbon emissions, contributing to the greenhouse gas effects.

The innovation can inspire more businesses to implement measures to become more sustainable such as generating renewable energy and supporting local businesses. Business managers can learn from this successful strategy because, in the long term, society and the environment would recover incrementally from climate change damages. For example, rainwater harvesting carries benefits such as reducing the need for imported water. Furthermore, the more businesses adopt sustainable measures, the more the likelihood of achieving the Paris Agreement.

To conclude, Poppies' sustainable measures can be followed and applied, which can deliver long-term benefits to the society and environment and be enjoyed by stakeholders. As Peter stated, "I want to do more good than bad to the environment," we should all follow this motto to create a sustainable environment for all.


Peter Norton, Owner

Business information



Wicklow, Leinster, IE
Business Website: https://www.poppies.ie/
Year Founded: 1982
Number of Employees: 2 to 10

Poppies is an Irish cafe that opened in Enniskerry, County Wicklow, in 1982. Peter Norton acquired Poppies in 2000 and aims to reduce the harm caused to the environment through its innovative measures such as rainwater harvesting, recyclable packaging and use of solar tubes to be more sustainable. Poppies has won and has been nominated for multiple sustainability awards due to their climate tackling initiatives. Some of which include winning the Wicklow County Council Environmental Business Award 2020 and becoming finalists in the Green Awards for four consecutive years. These achievements pay homage to the changes within the service industry that Poppies has initiated and hopes to instill within other cafes and restaurants.