Home Business News SMEs in UK’s most polluting industries are least likely to have a specific employee in charge of sustainability initiatives

SMEs in UK’s most polluting industries are least likely to have a specific employee in charge of sustainability initiatives

by LLB Reporter
28th Jun 23 12:53 pm

Almost half of all SMEs are rudderless on the road to Net Zero and do not currently have someone in charge of their sustainability efforts, according to new research.

As many as 2.75 million UK SMEs – 45% – do not have anyone leading their sustainability efforts despite the nation’s small businesses making up 99% of all UK businesses. The Barriers To Net Zero report by Rimm Sustainability, a global B2B sustainability solutions provider, has identified a responsibility gap in collective sustainability efforts in its study of 150 UK SME leaders.

A fifth (19%) of forward-thinking SMEs have a c-suite or board-level executive who is tasked with pioneering their sustainability efforts, for example, a Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO). While a similar report by PwC on enterprise sustainability firms confirms that 37% of the UK’s large businesses have a CSO, highlighting a large disparity.

The research shows that some of the most polluting industries are the least likely to have a specific employee in charge of sustainability initiatives. Two-thirds (67%) of SMEs from the agriculture industry have not taken any initiatives to achieve their sustainability goals or requirements, followed by more than 60% of SMEs from the travel, transport and logistics industry, 52% of construction firms and 40% of retail SMEs.

While the most proactive SMEs are mainly based within professional services and office-based industries. Small HR and recruitment firms were most likely to have appointed someone within the business to lead their sustainability drive, followed by 78% of small accounting and finance firms, and 67% of creative and design businesses.

Ravi Chidambaram, chief executive officer and founder of Rimm Sustainability said: “Without proactive action by businesses big and small the UK will not reach its collective targets. While undoubtedly the biggest businesses and polluters have the most work to do small businesses, of which there are 5.5 million in the UK must play their part too.

“It is worrying to see that still today 45% of UK SME leaders haven’t tasked anyone in their business with improving sustainability, or even taken the lead themselves. While business trading conditions are tough improving business practices can save money, as well as make companies more desirable to work with to potential customers. The benefits of green practices outweigh anything else.”

Almost 1 in 10 (8%) of SMEs have outsourced their sustainability drive to a third-party or partner, leveraging other people’s specialisms outside of the business.

Ravi continued: “SME leaders have a multitude of challenges to contend with however thinking smart and using a partner to measure, report and improve on sustainability is simple. There are now many cost-effective and even free ways to review things like your business’s carbon footprint and improve on it, as well as more advanced tools using AI and learning materials. SME leaders have little excuse not to embrace a greener future.

“The report also shows there is not an absence of interest or intent in SMEs adopting greener practices, rather it is an absence of knowledge and support. Solutions like the myCSO platform have been specifically designed to remove cost as an obstacle for growing businesses but deliver the competitive advantage of a greener, more sustainable business over competitors.”

Half (50%) of the SMEs questioned said a lack of funds was a restrictive factor on their Net Zero journey, while a third (33%) said a lack of time identified cost as an issue.

However, there is still an appetite for the transition to greener practices. More than a quarter (28%) of SMEs wanted to adopt a carbon calculator while the same percentage were interested in interactive dashboards and reports to reflect emissions output and energy efficiency. One in five respondents wanted to access educational resources and training programmes and a further 20% were interested in engaging staff in Net Zero strategies.

Rimm Sustainability has developed a virtual platform which assumes the role of a sustainability officer: myCSO. The cost-effective platform assesses and measures green performance and then provides guidance on how a business can further enhance its environmental strategy and credentials.

The aim of the platform is to provide businesses with a system which enables them to act in an environmentally friendly way and to unlock the commercial benefits this brings.

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