One in five SMEs plan to prioritise net-zero efforts in 2023

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A fifth of UK SMEs plan to make going green a “core business strategy” for 2023 – working towards becoming net-zero. A study of 1,000 small business owners found 75 percent plan to maintain or increase investment in sustainability over the next two years.

Encouragingly, 80 percent have now measured their carbon footprint, or plan to, in the near future.

Only 25 percent reported the economic downturn is having a negative impact on their organisation’s environmental commitments.

And just a small minority (three percent) are set to decrease investment in environmental commitments.

Changes made by businesses include reducing energy consumption (44 percent), recycling more (34 percent), installing solar panels for power or switching to a renewable energy provider (31 percent) – and ramping up staff education (26 percent).

Exactly a quarter will adopt more sustainable transport, while 19 percent plan to engage in tree planting schemes.

And 28 percent want to use greener suppliers and products within their supply chain.

The research, commissioned by climate tech startup, Ecologi, which has created its Ecologi Zero tool to help SMEs calculate their carbon footprint, also found 76 percent believe having an environmental strategy is good for business.

Despite this, 44 percent have not set any environmental targets for the year ahead – and of those who already have a net-zero strategy, only 26 percent are on track to reach these by 2050.

Elliot Coad, CEO and co-founder of Ecologi, said: “It’s encouraging to see a number of business leaders making climate action a priority this year, despite tough economic circumstances, but they aren’t being driven solely by a sense of moral obligation.

“There is also a strong business case for being more environmentally sustainable – from futureproofing your business to improving employee loyalty and motivation.

“Small businesses are showing the desire to do business better, and we must give them all the support they need not just to set accurate targets for their net-zero journey, but also to grow.”

Among the companies who have made green changes, 98 percent have seen one or more positive impacts on their business, with 38 percent believing they are actively bringing in more eco-conscious customers.

Other benefits they have seen range from enhanced social responsibility (43 percent), a reduction in waste (43 percent), and improved brand image (43 percent).

Of those facing barriers to follow through with more environmentally friendly choices, 39 percent are being held back by financial constraints.

For 27 percent, finding the time in the day is the greatest barrier, while 24 percent are yet to see a strong business return from making green changes.

Nearly four in ten (37 percent) believe the government should provide more support to SMEs seeking to transition to net-zero.

Half are calling for better initiatives to support businesses seeking to become more environmentally sustainable, while 55 percent are keen to see the provision of more grant funding.

Of those who have set environmental targets, 59 percent report they are on track to meet them – with 32 percent saying they are ahead of their plans.

But eight percent worry they are falling behind on their environmental targets, according to the OnePoll data.

Among those organisations who are yet to get started with net-zero, there is a desire to do so for 52 percent – if it was more straightforward.

More than four in ten (41 percent) of those who don’t have a net-zero strategy would like their business to have one, but feel confused about how to get started.

And over half (52 percent) of small business owners who haven’t measured their organisation’s carbon footprint said they would calculate it if it was free and straightforward to do so.

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