Small Businesses make sustainability a priority for the year
With the climate crisis front-of-mind, sustainability is one of the most pressing issues for businesses to prioritise in 2022. To date, the views and contribution of the small business sector to this crucial issue has been largely ignored by policy makers and influencers. Given the seismic contribution that the small business community makes to the economy at large, we need to better understand and support the work this sector is doing not just on environmental issues but sustainability more broadly. Our survey suggests small business owners could in fact be role models from the private sector in driving progress on the issues that matter. There is evidence of a healthy balance of work being planned on economic, social and global issues and we must all support this.
The majority of UK small business owners (58%) have started 2022 looking to improve their sustainability credentials - with small businesses in the agriculture, manufacturing and hospitality sectors most likely to be making sustainability a focus for the year ahead.
Following weeks of soaring energy prices, likely to be exacerbated by the mounting Ukraine crisis, reviewing energy usage was the top sustainability concern for UK small businesses (25%), who were prioritising a full review of heating bills and looking into renewable energy options.
Specific areas of sustainability that small businesses are working to improve on in 2022
Reviewing energy usage
Improve working conditions for all employees
Improving policies to packaging, waste and recycling
Investing in local suppliers / contractors
Creating jobs locally
Having a positive environmental impact on the immediate community
Switching to greener forms of transport
Being part of an ethical supply chain
Investing in sustainable infrastructure and new equipment
Improving governance and risk management
Reducing harmful impact on the community
Invest in markets with strong profitability opportunity
Net %: Planet factors
Net %: People factors
Net %: Profit factors
The Novuna Business Finance poll of 1,132 small business decision makers grouped survey responses into the three key areas of sustainability - planet, people and profit. The results suggested a broad appreciation of sustainability issues spanning planet (39%), people (37%) and profit (25%) considerations. These findings suggest that whilst many small businesses see bottom-line benefit from supporting sustainability, their primary focus is to do their bit to avert the climate crisis and support people in their community.
Protecting the planet: Environmental sustainability was the top priority for the small business community. Top areas to tackle included: reviewing energy usage (25%), improving policies towards packaging and waste for products and services (18%), exploring greener forms of transport (12%) and monitoring and reducing any harmful impact on the community (6%).
Looking after people: Social sustainability - a fifth of respondents committed to ensuring suitable working conditions and fair treatment for all employees (19%), making this the second most important area to focus on for those businesses looking to improve sustainability in 2022. Investing in the local community through employment (15%) and working more with local suppliers (15%) was also seen to be a key target, with business leaders recognising that community health and cohesion was an important aspect of sustainability.
Sustainable growth and profit: Beyond the environment and community issues, small businesses also plan to do more in 2022 to ensure they are part of an ethical supply chain (12%), invest where possible in new equipment and a sustainable infrastructure (9%) and make progress with governance and risk management (7%).