Engaging SME’s in Environmental Projects

Engaging businesses in environmental initiatives and projects is notoriously difficult. Granted individual projects nationwide may achieve high levels of participation but on the whole most projects involving SME’s struggle to gain business participation. George Padelopoulos, Acting Manager for SIEnA, a non-profit environmental business support service for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, outlines a research project into engaging SMEs from the Port of Southampton in waste management.

In May 2002 a year-long research project into waste arisings and waste management practice for businesses within the estate of the Port of Southampton, funded with Landfill Tax Credits from the RMC Environment Fund, drew to a conclusion. Through site visits and surveys, interviews and postal questionnaires the waste streams associated with the participating businesses were identified and quantified. In addition companies that had received a site visit received a report, which highlighted the opportunities for minimising their waste, as were the many barriers that often prevent companies from reducing or recycling more of their waste arisings.

One aspect of the research participants were asked about related to their environmental management practices and levels of environmental awareness, with particular reference to the Duty of Care. The findings showed:

  • awareness of waste legislation and its implications was poor, only 48% of respondent businesses aware that they have a Duty of Care regarding the waste they produce;
  • companies employing less than 15 staff are the least likely to engage in waste reduction/ recycling initiatives or monitoring of their waste costs; and
  • Thirty-three percent of respondents had an environmental policy, of which 19% had adopted a formal EMS.

    Of the businesses that had engaged with the environmental agenda many had lowered their waste costs by innovative approaches. Southampton Yacht Services for instance has diverted 18 tonnes of waste sawdust from landfill by arranging for a local stable to reuse it. Alternatively, STAUFF UK (Southampton) instigated a simple cultural change by renegotiating its waste contract and reducing the number of wheelie bins it uses by half. Both companies have achieved considerable cost savings, the primary driver to engaging businesses.

    Perhaps the most worrying aspect is that those companies that did participate are in reality the more environmentally aware. They are the ones most likely to engage and participate, and therefore the real figure of business knowledge of environmental legislation is probably considerably worse. This in turn must be an area of concern particularly as the emphasis of the new legislation will be placing greater responsibilities on businesses to improve their waste management.

    In concluding the project it has highlighted both good and bad aspects of waste management practice in the study area. Furthermore, it has shown that there are considerable opportunities for businesses to reduce the waste they generate, thereby reducing their disposal costs and legal liability as well as reducing their impact on the environment. Engaging a business in the first instance is the hardest part. When they can see the benefits, often but not exclusively financial, they tend to become a lot more involved.

    Whilst this project may have reached its conclusion building on the momentum of this first project SIEnA has been granted new funding to help deliver some of the quantifiable savings to businesses across the Solent. In delivering the new project SIEnA has secured further landfill tax funding from the RMC Environment Fund with support from Hampshire County Council, Associated British Ports (Southampton) and Southampton City Council. Additional financial assistance has been secured from the Harbour Economic Forum.

    This is an innovative project using existing experience, expertise and networks across the Solent Port area to achieve actual waste reductions. The key aims of the project are to:

    • facilitate reuse of wastes between companies or other organisations and hence diversion from landfill; and
    • provide active support and relevant information to help companies to adopt more sustainable procurement, hence reducing waste at source and stimulating demand for recycled products.

    SIEnA operates as a “green business club” for organisations across the Hampshire region, offering free or not-for-profit Information, Seminar, Training, Research and Consultancy services. It is a division of the Environment Centre, an independent registered charity and an Environmental Body (No 042168) registered for Landfill Tax Credits. tEC champions local solutions and capacity building for individuals, communities and businesses. It addresses the environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainable development; in addition to SIEnA, the EC has programmes dedicated to combating Climate Change and fuel poverty through energy efficiency advice to businesses and households, promoting community projects and Local Agenda 21.

    The RMC Environment Fund is a grant-giving fund which passes over around £2.5 million of funding per annum to environmental and community based projects through the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme. The Fund is managed by The Environment Council and supported by RMC Group p.l.c. www.rmcef.org.uk

    For further information on SIEnA, Southampton Environment Centre or the Project (“Solent Port Resource Efficiency Network”), please contact George Padelopoulos, on:

    Tel: 023 80336199

    Fax: 023 80336191

    E-mail: [email protected]

    Web: www.environmentcentre.com

    For further information on Southampton City Council, please contact

    Adrian Richardson, Waste Strategy Manager

    Tel: 023 8083 2466

    e-mail [email protected]

    For further information on the RMC Environment Fund, please contact

    Stephen Rehill, Grants Administrator, on:

    Tel: 020 7632 0127

    E-mail: [email protected]

    Web: www.rmcef.org.uk

    For further information on Hampshire County Council, please contact

    Claire Saunders, Development Officer Waste Management Section

    Tel: 01962 845835

    E-mail: [email protected]

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