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A new industry study shows that nearly a third of UK SMEs have no plans to implement a sustainability strategy despite the government’s commitment to zero carbon emissions by 2050.
According to a survey of 1,021 companies conducted by YouGov for energy company World Kinect Energy Services, 40% of UK small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) have not yet developed a sustainability plan, but 30% are unwilling to adopt it. .
This contrasts with 53% of SMEs that have plans to meet their 2050 emissions targets. However, only 34% of companies say they have actually met their sustainability goals. Meanwhile, more than a quarter of the companies surveyed say the coronavirus pandemic has affected plans to adopt more sustainable measures.
It’s surprising that nearly 40% of small businesses in the UK don’t have a sustainability plan, but it’s even more surprising that 30% of companies aren’t willing to develop a sustainability strategy, said Therese Gjerde, Senior Director of World Kinects. Of global sustainability. SMEs are often perceived as not very relevant in this context because both themselves and the public are small, but collectively they represent large groups and significant emitters, and for this they must be an integral part of the net zero transition.
As of early 2020, there are 5.94 million small companies in the UK with fewer than 49 employees. It is estimated that in the UK, small businesses account for 99.3% of private sector companies and small businesses account for 45% of national corporate energy use.
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According to the survey, 29% of small businesses see the coronavirus pandemic as an obstacle to meeting their sustainability goals, with many companies focusing on financial survival during an economic downturn of historical proportions. About 47% of SMEs in the manufacturing and hospitality sector said financial issues were a barrier to sustainable practices, and 58% of respondents in the hospitality sector said they had to put their sustainability plans on hold in the face of an epidemic.
The findings seem to highlight the imbalance between the reality and ambitions of UK companies for sustainability. In last year’s survey of UK companies, the Enterprise Trust think tank found that nearly two-thirds (61%) of companies thought the transition to a green economy offers positive opportunities. Only 8% of respondents disagreed.
Beverley Cornaby, senior program manager for The Prince of Waless Corporate Leaders Group at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, told Forbes.com that companies that are not active in sustainability are at risk of falling behind.
Cornaby said it was difficult to imagine business decisions that would not be affected to some extent by sustainability. Companies that build trust with their customers based on their true sustainability credentials may be more resilient as a result.
Making the business case for sustainability, Cornaby points out that the new supply chain and investment rules will mean that large enterprises and small businesses will ultimately have to comply with sustainability requirements.
SMEs looking to supply multinationals will increasingly have to compete for sustainability, and even financial providers and investors will increasingly demand information on their sustainability performance, she said. However, she added that such a requirement provides SMEs with carrots and sticks. Sustainability will provide new opportunities for businesses looking for ways to attract a new generation of consumers who want products and services that are pursuing an ethical and trusted brand, she said.
As companies face both pressures from the coronavirus and the Brexit process that has disrupted UK trade, Cornaby said the UK government should support small businesses in developing and implementing a substantial sustainability plan.
Policy makers should see these findings as an opportunity to identify the type of support small and medium-sized businesses need from the government, she said. It proposes the development of a national small and medium-sized business net zero strategy that enterprises can participate in transition to net zero. It is imperative that the government supports SMEs to work for sustainability and not pose another challenge.
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