Sustainability has become a critical concern for businesses of all sizes. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in particular, play a vital role in driving economic growth and fostering innovation. As the global community looks to address pressing environmental and social challenges, SMEs will need to embrace sustainability as a core business principle.
SMEs play a crucial role in fighting climate change and changing the status quo on destructive business practices. But, to do so effectively, many of these businesses need a helping hand.
The case for going green
Sustainability is no longer just a nice-to-have, it is now considered a strategic priority for companies of all sizes, for several reasons:
- Competitive edge: Beyond the benefits to people and the planet, value-driven businesses can also gain an advantage over their competitors by attracting environmentally conscious customers & staff, cutting costs, and making positive contributions to their communities.
- Following the trend: SMEs also have another reason to consider their sustainability efforts. As governments increasingly pressure large businesses to address social and environmental issues, this leads to new disclosure regulations. Many of these regulations require large companies to disclose information about their supply chains. Since SMEs often make up the bulk of these chains, they will need to adapt to the decisions of large companies or lose out on opportunities.
- Looking to the future: Lastly, while governments are primarily targeting large businesses, in the future, they may shift their attention to SMEs, as these businesses account for 99% of all companies in the UK. Companies who are forewarned are forearmed.
How SMEs can incorporate sustainability
There are several ways in which SMEs can look to change the way they operate to be more sustainable:
- Develop and implement innovative technologies, products, and services that have a smaller environmental footprint
- Measure and reduce company wide carbon emissions (scope 1, 2, and 3)
- Adopt circular economy principles by promoting waste reduction, recycling, and reusing materials
- Ensure fair and equitable hiring policies
- Treating employees with respect and offering opportunities
- Prioritise sourcing from suppliers that adhere to sustainable practices and offer environmentally friendly products or services
- Assess and monitor their environmental impact through sustainability reporting and environmental audits
Sustainability tools for SMEs
SMEs have the advantage of being agile and adaptable, but, they often lack the same resources, knowledge, and influence as their larger counterparts.
In order to navigate the complex landscape of sustainable practices and ensure long-term success, SMEs can benefit from leveraging tools specifically designed to help them become more sustainable.
Here are a few examples of sustainability tools that SMEs can use:
B Corp certification is a rigorous standard that verifies that a company meets the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. The certification is administered by B Lab, a non-profit organisation that was founded in 2006.
To become a B Corp, a company must complete a 200+ question impact assessment that evaluates their performance in five key areas: governance, workers, customers, community, and environment.
If a company fails the evaluation process, they are not left empty-handed. Instead, they are provided with direction on how to improve in order to provide greater value to their customers, employees, suppliers, and the environment.
This targeted approach means that small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) can learn where their sustainability gaps are, and B Lab will then guide them on how to plug them.
The SME Climate Commitment
The SME Climate Hub is a non-profit global initiative that helps small to medium sized companies through their sustainability journeys. By signing up for the SME Climate Commitment, businesses commit to halving their emissions by 2030 and achieving net zero by 2050.
Businesses are supported through the SME Climate Hub which offers a free Carbon Calculator to measure company wide emissions, a free ClimateFit online education course, and other practical advice on how to reduce emissions.
Signing up for the SME Climate Commitment can be another good first step in becoming a more sustainable business. The SME Climate Hub is a non-profit global initiative that empowers small to medium sized companies to take climate action and build resilient businesses for the future.
The Hub is an initiative of the We Mean Business Coalition, the Exponential Roadmap Initiative and the United Nations Race to Zero campaign together with Normative and the Net Zero team at Oxford University.
FuturePlus self management tool
Another option is to use a self-management tool for businesses, for example FuturePlus.
FuturePlus in-house platform helps businesses track their sustainability journey by measuring and projecting the outcomes of sustainable initiatives.
The platform ensures SMEs with limited resources can navigate the complex realm of sustainability. The platform includes automated reporting tools and support to streamline sustainability efforts, saving businesses valuable time.
Sustainability tools are essential for SMEs to embrace and thrive in the modern era of sustainability. By leveraging these tools, SMEs can streamline their sustainable practices, track their environmental impact, and benefit from improved resource management and cost savings.
By utilising sustainability tools, SMEs demonstrate their commitment to responsible business practices, attract environmentally conscious customers, and contribute positively to the planet and society. The future belongs to those who can navigate the path of sustainability, and sustainability tools provide SMEs with the compass to guide them on this transformative journey.
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