The importance of promoting sustainability as a SME – 3 ways SMEs can implement sustainability practices within their culture

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are playing an increasingly important role in the UK economy by their contribution to national growth and employment. In recent years, SMEs are beginning to implement sustainability objectives and practices to not only mitigate the effects of climate change but to also gain a competitive advantage in the complex and volatile markets caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. So why is it important for your company to promote sustainability?

Eon recently conducted a survey of consumers on the ‘prospect of a greener economy’, 72% said they pay attention to whether a business acts in a climate-friendly way and 51% think that the environmental aspects of a product/service are now just as important as the price they pay for it. This research highlights how consumer behavior has changed post pandemic and how the adoption and successful integration of sustainability principles is vital to the survival of many SMEs in today’s market. The role that SMEs can play in the near future could be the pivotal point in the fight against climate change with pressure from consumers and the government. In addition, there is a clear financial benefit in the long-term for businesses as consumers are more likely to choose those companies that successfully promote their sustainability initiatives, hence improving their revenue and profits. 

So, what can you do to implement sustainability practices within your company?

  • Offer remote work – heightened by the pandemic, remote working has taken off in recent years. This promotes work-life flexibility but also substantially reduces carbon emissions from commuting and travel. 
  • Use sustainable products – Reducing the use of plastic in packaging and other unsustainable materials, instead switching to sustainable alternatives that are better for the environment
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle – This is the best way to keep waste out of landfills, the idea is to cut back on the waste created by following this order.

The main problem that arises when implementing these sustainability objectives is not necessarily what the objectives are but how they are executed. Most companies now know that having a sustainability strategy in place is important, although only about 25% have developed a clear plan with achievable and demonstrable objectives and deliverables. Objectives should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) to provide clarity, focus and motivation for managers. 

It is clear from the research and surveys that have emerged in recent years that it is crucial for SMEs to adopt sustainability practices at all levels of their business, aligning their objectives to government standards and the United Nations SDGs (sustainable development goals).