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.

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