More effort needed to help SMEs buy green goods

The London Assembly's environment committee has published a report claiming smaller businesses are being all but ignored in the drive to promote the use of recycled products.

The report, Buying Recycled points out that the London Development Agency and London Remade are making significant inroads in encouraging big business to adopt green procurement strategies but the drive to persuade the big boys to do more to help the environment is coming at a cost to SMEs.

In the report, chairman of the committee Cllr Darren Johnson said: “This is all very well, but larger firms tend to have more resources to devote to procurement.

“Small and medium firms do not have this luxury and therefore require more support. Ninety nine per cent of London firms employ fewer than 50 people and this accounts for over a third of all employment in London with a turnover estimated to be almost £200 billion.

“They are very important to the success of the London economy and if more support is given to these firms then even a small percentage increase in the amount of recycled products they purchase will produce significant gains for London.”

The report argues that there is very little advice and information out there for SMEs seeking to up the content of recycled materials in their supply chain.

“It is totally unacceptable for the Mayor, LDA and London Remade to focus only on large firms – that’s the easy option,” said Cllr Johnson.

“We want a proper marketing campaign aimed at small and medium-sized businesses that are willing but not able to buy recycled.

“London stands to gain so much and it is inconceivable that the Mayor has ignored this sector up to now.”

London Remade, however, told edie it was a question of using its finite resources most effectively.

“London Remade has delivered the Mayor’s Green Procurement Code for five years and we are now in a consultation period with almost 500 signatories to define how to improve the service,” said a spokesperson.

“We are consulting extensively with 120 signatories, which are representative of the whole group, including public and private sector, blue chip companies and SMEs.”

She said that targeting larger companies was necessary as it meant getting a bigger bang for your buck when deciding how to allocate limited resources.

“The issue is that recruiting SMEs and any business is labour intensive and London Remade currently doesn’t have the capacity to expand. More funding is required to resource this,” said the spokesperson.

“Persuading large companies to switch to recycled content materials for manufacturing their products, or encouraging them to purchase recycled content products for their own use, represents huge potential tonnage diversion from landfill.”

She said smaller companies were not being ignored, however, and London Remade’s small staff included on project manager dedicated to SMEs.

In recent weeks the organisation has hosted an event to promote sustainable officer work as part of London Sustainability Week (see related story) and holds three or four networking events each year for those working for the biggest to smallest companies.

It also has a list of supplier of recycled products on its website that is currently undergoing development to make it a more comprehensive database.

There are currently no plans to establish a buying group to negotiate with suppliers on behalf of smaller firms, as advocated by the environment committee report.

Sam Bond

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