SMEs are critical to creating a sustainable future

A lot has been said about global brand’s successes (and failures) in sustainability. However, we hear a lot less about the small and medium size companies that make up the vast majority of businesses.  In the UK alone, SMEs account for 99% of companies, 47% of revenue, employ 17 million people and create half the nation’s business related emissions (1).  The picture is similar across Europe. The OECD group of countries contribute 70% of total employment and create more than half of the value for the bloc.(2).

We don’t hear a lot, because sadly not enough is happening. Unfortunately, SMEs tend to lack the key resources and knowledge needed to make a transition to becoming a more sustainable company.  With day-to-day business challenges and targets taking most of the management’s time, it is no surprise that topics such as environmental sustainability and creating social value tend to take a back seat. 

Typical reasons suggested by the Sustainability Knowledge Group for this in-action include:

  • Lack of awareness among employees about the importance of sustainability
  • Lack of awareness of business owners of the benefits of sustainability practices
  • No available access to affordable financial resources
  • Inadequate and insufficient skills and management developed practises
  • Lack of information how to implement sustainability
  • The interference of intended sustainability initiatives with other business initiatives

The green opportunity

Tackling these barriers will be critical to SMEs capturing the substantial opportunities of becoming a more sustainable company.  Already the global market for low carbon goods and services is over £3 trillion pa, with estimates that the UK sector could grow by 11% every year to 2030 (3).

We are seeing conscious consumers actively choose more sustainable brands.  For example, more than a third of shoppers have knowingly paid more for green products since the pandemic struck, and 51% think the eco credentials of a product are now just as important as the price they pay for it, according to an E.ON study(4). 

Our mission and focus

At the Sustainable Business Guide, we’ve made it our mission to inspire and enable leaders within SMEs to progress through their sustainability journey. We know it isn’t easy and the topics can be complex and filled with technical jargon.  Our aim is to provide practical, helpful guides and information to empower you as a business leader.  Authors are all trained specialists and some are also owners of their own businesses.  The editorial content is not designed to sell anything.  Through this site you’ll find:

We’d love to hear from you as you continue through your journey and perhaps you’d like to feature as a case study, if so contact us

References and further reading

  1. Boosting UK productivity with SME growth,expand%20business%20and%20increase%20impact
  2. The importance of SMEs role in achieving sustainable development
  4. Consumers demand greener products in wake of pandemic

Cover photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash.

Dave Caygill
Dave Caygill
David is the owner of Sustainable Business Guide and Founder of Terra Further, a consultancy which designs and deliver products and services that work for people, planet and profit. Having spent a decade and half working in brand, product and marketing innovation he developed a keen sense of how to create and communicate compelling propositions. His time at Cambridge Institute for Sustainable Leadership has given me a solid understanding of the science and theory behind sustainability. He combined it with decades working with some of the biggest brands in the world including Starbucks, Samsung, VW, Mini, Yum! foods and Hertz. He's now I’m on a mission to protect and regenerate nature and biodiversity by helping unlock the $200b / year pledged at Cop15 and putting it to work in the projects that can protect 30% of nature by 2030. David started the Sustainable Business Guide to support SME businesses who are typically unable to access specialist help in sustainability industry yet are some of the organisations most in need of help transitioning to a low carbon and sustainable business model.

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