Survey: Two-thirds of British SMEs not confident on net-zero pathway

That is a headline finding from BSI’s new net-zero barometer, which polled 1,000 senior decision-makers at small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs).

Awareness of the importance of transitioning to net-zero, the barometer survey found, is at al all-time high. 82% of those polled said it was important to set and achieve net-zero targets – triple the proportion who agreed in 2020. But the survey revealed an awareness-action gap.

BSI found that many SMEs have already tackled low-hanging fruit, such as reducing waste (44%) or fitting energy-efficient lighting (38%). Only 17% of those polled said they have not made any key changes to become more sustainable.

But the survey found that half of SMEs do not yet have a net-zero plan or policy. Moreover, only one-fifth of SMEs are measuring and reporting progress to cut emissions in a standard way. These findings suggest that many businesses are yet to embed the net-zero transition into their strategic planning, despite increasing pressure to do so from customers and investors.

BSI found that the biggest challenge preventing SMEs from developing and delivering a credible pathway to net-zero is the fact that they need to dedicate resources to respond to the cost-of-living crisis and energy price crisis.

Facing these challenges – and other perceived barriers such as a lack of Government support and a desire not to be seen as greenwashing – only one-third of the SMEs polled would describe themselves as extremely confident in reaching net-zero.

“At a time where the attention of many SME leaders is being diverted by economic pressures, they want help to navigate a path that is both credible and realistic,” said BSI’s director-general of standards, Scott Steedman.

“SMEs want to understand both where they are on this journey, and what that transition means for them and their stakeholders. They can benefit from having a clear roadmap to how they’re going to achieve net zero, not only in their own operations, but also in their supply chains. Our research shows that with the right guidance – including the use of standards – SMEs are more than able to rise to this moment.”

Earlier this year, the SME Climate Hub posted similar findings from its own study of 350 businesses. That study found that seven in ten firms need more available funds to transition to net-zero, with most citing increased difficulty securing funds in the current economic climate.

Related blog: BSI’s four enablers of a net-zero strategy

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