Survey: Two-thirds of SMEs struggling to cut carbon due to financial hurdles

SMEs currently account for more than 99% of all businesses in the UK.

This is according to a new survey conducted by BT, Small Business Britain and Oxford Brookes Business School, involving more than 2,000 small businesses.

The “Small Business, Green Growth” report resulting from the survey states that 80% of business proprietors aim to enhance their sustainability efforts, with nearly one in four small businesses seeing environmental initiatives as a potential avenue for growth.

Nevertheless, nearly 64% cite a need for increased support in implementing sustainability enhancements, and 41% perceive financial constraints as a significant hurdle to overcome.

Although more than three-quarters (77%) of small business owners report having initiated sustainability measures, only 20% perceive their efforts as substantial, underscoring a disparity between the required level of change and the current pace of progress.

Small Business Britian’s founder Michelle Ovens CBE said: “There are mounting concerns about climate change and the transition businesses and society need to make in the coming years.

“Small business owners overwhelmingly want to go greener – driven by their own ethics as well as growing consumer expectations and supply chain demands. However, the path they need to take is not clear at all. “

Economic challenges stifle emission reduction efforts

The report highlights that recent economic challenges, ranging from the cost-of-living crisis to recession, contribute to 34% of business owners feeling constrained in their efforts to reduce emissions.

Additionally, 65% of them want increased availability of grants to support their sustainability initiatives.

Ovens added: “We need more leadership and ambition – across society, the private sector and with Government – to engage and educate this vital part of the economy and to find innovative solutions for the major challenges businesses now face, particularly around financing greener growth.”

Earlier this year, another survey of 850 small businesses found that rising business costs is the primary challenge affecting nearly 60% of businesses, with manufacturers appearing to bear a heavier burden.

Last year, the UK Business Climate Hub (UKBCH) was launched, backed by the UK Government’s Net Zero Council, with an aim to support 5.5 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in reducing energy costs and emissions as a part of their net-zero transition.

Rising engagement from small-scale enterprises

The report highlights that currently only 14% of small businesses prioritise sustainability as a core aspect of their operations, with a slightly higher 20% allocating resources to enhance sustainability, underscoring a substantial gap in businesses integrating sustainability into their core strategies.

Nevertheless, an additional 43% small businesses have initiated their sustainability journey, providing a foundation for further progress.

Women-led small businesses exhibit a marginally higher dedication to sustainability, with 15% making it a central organisational focus compared to 10% among male-led businesses.

BT’s small and medium business managing director Chris Sims said: “The commitment to sustainability among small businesses in the UK is growing, but there are challenges that still need addressing.”

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