Businesses shelve green plans to weather recession

The recession hit more than just people's wallets, a new study has found, with more than half of British small businesses claiming green initiatives have been shelved as they struggle to stay afloat.

Published by Lloyds TSB Commercial, the research shows while some organisations introduced green schemes as a cost-cutting exercise during the dip, the majority still cite the associated costs of eco-friendly action as a reason to leave it be.

In fact, in something of a quandary for small businesses, Lloyds’ report shows that financial concerns are so great, they are stifling efforts despite almost half (48%) of those businesses questioned believing a stronger green ethic would result in a positive customer reaction.

Commenting on the report, Lloyds TSB Commercial’s managing director, John Maltby, said: “It is clear that businesses do seem to recognise the value of improving their green credentials and the dangers of not doing so.

“Coming out of the recession, many firms do seem focused on the costs savings to be gained from environmental improvements, but many are being held back because they fear the cost of taking action.”

In fact, the report goes on to claim that in a cruel twist of irony, this fear-induced “environmental inertia” may lead to further financial constraints if businesses fall foul of green legislation.

In response, Lloyds have announced plans to establish a 200-strong network of regional business and environment managers across the UK to help small and medium sized enterprises better understand the environmental issues facing their organisations and what action can be taken.

Mr Maltby added: “We are committed to helping businesses across the country implement sustainability related policies and have pledged to create a network of 200 business and environment managers by the end of this year, and to have even more in 2011. These managers will provide the valuable support companies will require to make significant changes.

“The fact is that no business can afford to ignore the environment. There are huge risks for any company that does not improve its credentials and there are huge opportunities to be seized as well.

“Businesses that can think strategically about how environmental responsibility can help attract customers will position themselves well for future growth.”

Lloyds’ research was based on a survey of 539 small and medium sized businesses, with a turnover of up to £15 million per annum.

Sam Plester

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie