Sustainability top priority for just 1/4 of small businesses

Just a quarter of British SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) say sustainable business practices will be a top priority in the forthcoming year.

In a report by Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking the findings show that while many businesses are undertaking energy-saving and recycling, few are considering a range of broader sustainable practices, such as engaging with the wider supply chain or considering ethical sourcing.

Stephen Page, external relations director, Lloyds Banking Group, said: “Businesses clearly see the benefits of sustainability and they are carrying out their environmental responsibilities through recycling and being energy-efficient. But for SMEs, sustainability also means… working responsibly within their supply chain and engaging with the next generation [through] apprenticeship schemes.”

The benefits for implementing sustainable practices are clear to those involved. Over half of businesses surveyed said it helped reduce costs, while 30% said it increased their profitability. Similarly businesses recognise the risks of not doing anything. Almost half believed it could have a negative impact on their costs, thinking it may harm their profits; while a third cite the impact on their brand perception.

Implementing sustainable practices helps boost profits

money

Photo: Rob Wiltshire

One third says it could mean exclusion from tender processes while others cite the impact it could have on compliance with relevant legislation.

The environmental activities undertaken by most businesses include recycling and energy-saving.

While the majority of businesses were unable to clarify how much they spend on sustainable practices, a third said they expected to increase their investment over the next five years. Of those that are yet to undertake any sustainable practices 44% said they would start investing in the next five years. Reducing costs, increasing profitability and making a positive contribution to the community were among reasons for doing so.

Responses from 1,008 SMEs with a turnover of up to £25 million were collated in October 2013.

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