Two-thirds of SMEs fear they lack skills to tackle climate crisis

24th February 2022

Two-thirds of small business owners in the UK are worried that they don’t have the right skills and knowledge to tackle the climate crisis, a recent survey has found.

The poll of almost 200 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) found that 63% are delaying climate action due to a lack of skills and knowledge, while funding and time constraints are also challenges for 48% and 40%, respectively.

Approximately 70% said that they need access to external funds to reduce their emissions faster or at all, but only 33% have been offered a financial incentive to make cuts.

The survey also found that 80% consider reducing emissions “a high priority,” with 82% making efforts to reduce energy consumption and waste, 64% running employee education initiatives, and 52% upgrading facilities and equipment.

However, only 60% of firms in this category have a long-term emission reduction plan in place, highlighting the importance of short-term actions and the need for increased planning.

SMEs account for around 90% of business worldwide and affect the livelihoods of over two billion people.

“Taken on an individual scale, each small business has a relatively moderate carbon footprint,” said María Mendiluce, CEO of the We Mean Business Coalition, a founding partner of the SME Climate Hub, which carried out the survey.

“However, together, these small businesses have a huge impact – both on the planet and on their communities.

“To limit the effects of climate change, and to create a just future that leaves no one behind, it’s imperative that every business, of every size, has the tools they need to prioritise climate action.”

Enhancing reputation, differentiating themselves from competitors, and meeting customer expectations are among the main reasons for taking climate action, cited by 73%, 61% and 42% of survey respondents, respectively.

However, at 96%, SMEs overwhelmingly said that “the right thing to do” is the key motivation for taking climate action.

IEMA has a huge range of learning and development options for businesses looking to tackle the climate crisis and upskill workers, and last year called on the government to deliver a national Green Skills and Jobs Strategy.

Director of Policy & External Affairs, Martin Baxter, said: “Achieving a net-zero future and hitting our long-term environmental goals will require all jobs to be done in a greener way. We also need to equip tomorrow’s workforce with the skills and capability to play their part.

“For our own part, we will ensure that IEMA and the environment and sustainability profession makes a full contribution, including through the establishment of a sustainability careers hub.”

Image credit: iStock

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