UK SMEs need more Government support to help them be greener – with 50% saying that reducing their CO2 emissions isn’t a priority for the coming year, a new survey has revealed.
In the wake of world leaders reaching a new agreement to reduce coal power at the COP26 climate summit, small firms have said they are doing everything possible to be more environmentally friendly, but cannot afford to put it at the top of their to-do list.
The survey was carried out by small business lender Capify – and found SMEs have already stretched themselves to introduce measures to cut their carbon footprint.
They include recycling more, reducing waste, creating a paperless workplace and cutting down on unnecessary travel.
In terms of what would encourage businesses to become more focused on reducing their emissions, the majority (60%) said both better financial incentives from the Government and lower costs for greener solutions were needed.
Around 35% of those responding to Capify’s Environment and Business Survey said they wanted “more understanding about what we can do”, while 33% said it was important to see more of the country’s largest firms leading the way.
Almost half (49%) said making their SME more environmentally friendly was not a priority for the next 12 months.
And despite 60% wanting more financial incentives from the Government and lower costs for greener solutions, just 10% said they would prioritise greener initiatives if they had 20% more cash in the bank.
John Rozenbroek, CFO/CCO at Capify said: “Climate change may be the defining issue facing our generation, but for small business owners battling the effects of the pandemic and Brexit, it’s understandable many need to put the immediate needs of their staff and business first.
“SMEs who responded to our survey said they’re doing everything in their power to be greener. And while most said they were concerned about their industry’s CO2 footprint, the current economic environment means all of that has to take a backseat for now.
“That’s unless the Government can provide support to make those changes for the business owners being hit the hardest. Without vital intervention, it’s difficult to see how this stalemate can be resolved.”
Around 55% said they were concerned about their industry’s impact on the environment, and 40% said they had done “everything” they could to be more green.
With businesses prioritising staying afloat, the survey also found that the majority – 60% – did not have any Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) policies in place focussing on sustainability or being greener. In fact, over 55% of respondents said they were not familiar with the term ‘ESG’.
Most – around 38% – said their first choice would be to retain the extra funds to support cash flow, while 18% answered that they would invest it in more staff and training. A further 16% said it would go to pay off existing debts.
Rozenbroek added: “SMEs across so many sectors have proven their resilience on various occasions over the past two years, and it’s crucial for the economic recovery that these businesses continue to grow and succeed.
“We still have a long way to go on the road to economic recovery for the small business community, and Capify will continue to strive to help in any way it can.”
The survey received responses from UK SMEs across a wide range of sectors, including construction, IT services, professional services, manufacturing, retail, transport and telecommunications. A total of 70% of respondents had been trading for over 15 years.