Vast majority of SMEs want more help with sustainability goals

13th April 2023

Sustainability is one of the most pressing issues for small UK businesses this year, but the vast majority want more guidance, a new survey has found.

The poll of over 1,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) found that four out of five believe that other firms, regulatory bodies, industry networks and local and national governments could do more to support them.

More than a fifth of respondents also said that there was not enough action being taken in their own business community to reduce carbon emissions.

Despite these challenges, a third of SMEs claimed to have an “active plan” to achieve net-zero emissions, and 85% are taking practical steps today to address the sustainability challenge.

Greening supply chains was recognised as an important issue by 82% or respondents, and 78% said that sustainability is now a priority in the supply chain.

“Thousands of small businesses are taking positive steps under their own steam to support the climate agenda, look after their people and protect their financial strength," said Geoff Maleham, managing director of Novuna Business Finance, which commissioned the research.

However, he added: “Many small business owners don’t know where to turn for guidance and information – and many have struggled to maintain a focus on net zero whilst grappling with the economic ravages of Covid and then a seismic cost-of-living crisis.”

Although the cost of living did push back net zero as an immediate business priority in 2022, it also ushered in green benefits, with nine out of 10 SMEs saying that the crisis forced them to become greener going forward.

A third are now looking for alternative ‘green’ options for day-to-day activities.

These include reducing waste, increasing recycling, switching to renewable energy sources, encouraging cycling or walking-to-work initiatives, and finding less carbon-intensive business models.

“With the climate crisis front-of-mind, sustainability is one of the most pressing issues for small businesses to prioritise in 2023,” Maleham continued. “As the engine room of the economy, the importance of their buy-in, advocacy and contribution to the UK’s move to net zero cannot be understated.

“To date, the views and contribution of the small business sector to this crucial issue have not been central enough to the business and policy debate on sustainability.”

IEMA's new Green Careers Hub can help anyone – from any sector or background – understand how they can play a role in the wider green economy.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

IEMA reviews political party manifestos

Ahead of the UK general election next month, IEMA has analysed the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, and Green Party manifestos in relation to the sustainability agenda.

19th June 2024

Read more

Nine in 10 UK adults do not fully trust brands to accurately portray their climate commitments or follow the science all the time, a new survey has uncovered.

19th June 2024

Read more

Just one in 20 workers aged 27 and under have the skills needed to help drive the net-zero transition, compared with one in eight of the workforce as a whole, new LinkedIn data suggests.

18th June 2024

Read more

With a Taskforce on Inequality and Social-related Financial Disclosures in the pipeline, Beth Knight talks to Chris Seekings about increased recognition of social sustainability

6th June 2024

Read more

Disinformation about the impossibility of averting the climate crisis is part of an alarming turn in denialist tactics, writes David Burrows

6th June 2024

Read more

David Symons, FIEMA, director of sustainability at WSP, and IEMA’s Lesley Wilson, tell Chris Seekings why a growing number of organisations are turning to nature-based solutions to meet their climate goals

6th June 2024

Read more

A system-level review is needed to deliver a large-scale programme of retrofit for existing buildings. Failure to do so will risk missing net-zero targets, argues Amanda Williams

31st May 2024

Read more

Chris Seekings reports from a webinar helping sustainability professionals to use standards effectively

31st May 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close