SMEs target sustainability

14th January 2014

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Nicola Wells

One-quarter of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Britain say sustainability is one of their top three priorities for 2014, according to research from Lloyds Banking Group

The findings are based on a poll of 1,008 SMEs with a turnover of up to £25 million. Of these, 87% have already implemented sustainable business practices, with more than half (54%) claiming such activities help them to reduce their costs, while 30% believe it increases their profitability.

One-third of firms surveyed expect to increase their investment in sustainable business practices over the next five years. Meanwhile, 45% of companies that do not currently undertake sustainable business practices, claim they will start investing in such activities over the next five years.

Many SMEs say that a reluctance to invest in sustainability poses a risk to small businesses, with 39% believing that ignoring sustainable business practices will negatively impact on brand perception and 32% claiming that a lack of engagement in such activities will exclude them from tenders.

The research shows that SMEs tend to focus their sustainability efforts on more traditional practices, notably environment activities, such as recycling and energy saving, rather than the broader range of sustainable business practices relating to supply chains and sourcing, for example.

More than three-quarters (79%) of survey respondents report that the key sustainability practices they plan to pursue in the near future will relate to the environment, while 48% say activities will be aimed at making the company a more responsible business.

By contrast, engaging in charitable projects and working with the local community are not mentioned as a priority by any company intending to invest in sustainability for the first time.

“Businesses clearly see the benefits of sustainability, and they are carrying out their environmental responsibilities through recycling and being energy efficient,” commented Stephen Pegge, external relations director at Lloyds Banking Group.

“But for SMEs, sustainability also means interacting with charities, social enterprises and the community in which they operate; working responsibly within their supply chain and engaging with the next generation, through, for example, apprenticeship schemes.”

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