Small Businesses in Agriculture Echo COP Calls for Sustainability

Wednesday 16th November 2022

From CCOP2 to COP27 – agricultural practises play a largely significant role in the preservation of land, biodiversity and climate control. The findings from new Novuna Business Finance research shows that small businesses in this sector are actively supporting the trajectories of both COP27’s Agriculture Day (12 November), as well as those of Countryside COP which took place in October.

Furthermore, the new research has shown that small businesses in the agriculture sector are among the most likely of any sector to be working to become more sustainable - and to be taking sustainability matters into their own hands:

  • 90% believe there is an urgent need to achieve carbon neutrality, with a quarter saying no one is doing enough
  • The results showed that three in five small businesses (61%) in the agricultural sector are working to become more sustainable enterprises in the next six months – higher than the average of across all sectors (56%).
  • Agriculture small businesses are more than four times as likely as the national average to be trying to make greater use of solar or renewable energy in the next 12 months (26% vs 6%). Meanwhile, 29% are looking to improve the sustainable profitability of the business (Vs 20% average).
  • Compared with the national average, agriculture businesses were more likely to be working on reducing their carbon footprint (18% versus 12%), cutting back on waste and packaging 18% versus 15%, recycling (14% versus 12%), and working towards consistent values in their supply chain (7% versus 6%).

Carbon neutrality starts at home

A separate survey of rural and urban businesses, also commissioned by Novuna Business Finance, found that while 90% of rurally-based small businesses believed there is an urgent need to achieve carbon neutrality, a quarter (26%) believed no one was doing enough to cut carbon emissions (compared with 19% of urban businesses).

Standing out from these findings was the fact that rural businesses were far more likely to be taking responsibility themselves for their carbon emissions and carbon neutral goals, rather than relying on Government or big businesses. Around 30% of respondents believed achieving these goals started with individuals within a business, who needed to be educated on the issues and encouraged to take action both at work and home. By contrast, urban businesses were more likely to believe it was for the Government and big businesses to lead the change (39% vs 25% rural businesses).

Another area where agricultural businesses stood apart from their city-based counterparts was their appreciation of the positive impact they could have on the local environment and immediate community. Nationally, 21% or rural small businesses said that using local suppliers was an area of sustainability that had become more important than a year ago (Vs 14% of urban businesses). Similarly, rural businesses were more likely to prioritise sustainability initiatives that had a positive impact on the broader community (26% Vs 22% urban).

Our research has clearly shown that businesses in the agricultural sector are on the front line of tackling climate change. Their perspectives on the challenges and approaches involved in addressing the climate crisis are perhaps informed by their unique exposure to the realities of our changing environment and how that affects crops etc on the ground. It is understandable then that these are the heroes leading the charge of action on climate change solutions.

Growing a business in a sustainable way is going from a niche concept to something that is far more mainstream. There have been fundamental shifts in direction from businesses both large and small, and within a short space of time. The ability to monitor, control and reduce emissions over a given period and in a profitable way requires planning and support from the right people, who share the same sustainability goals. For more information about how this can be done for your business, get in touch with Novuna Business Finance.

Jo Morris

Head of Insight

Novuna Business Finance

Sustainability priorities businesses are working on in the next 12 months

UK average

Agriculture

Reduce carbon footprint

12%

18%

Cut down on waste and packaging

15%

18%

Do more recycling

12%

14%

Invest in electric cars/ fleet vehicles/solar energy

6%

2%

Greater use of solar / renewable energy

6%

26%

Invest in staff wellbeing

13%

4%

Develop a DEI policy (diversity, equality & inclusion)

2%

-

Invest in supporting community projects

4%

4%

Enhance our maternity/ paternity polices

1%

-

Invest in staff education / training

17%

4%

Greater support for working parents and carers

2%

-

Improve sustainable profitability of the business

20%

29%

Independent reviews of our compliance procedures

3%

-

Governance (i.e. work to align the interests of community staff and shareholders)

3%

-

Review risk management policies

6%

-

Work towards consistent values in our supply chain

7%

7%

Avoid associating with political or cultural issues that may offend or alienate people

4%

4%

N/A – My business does not have any sustainability priorities

44%

39%

Note to editors

The first tranche of research was conducted by YouGov among a representative sample of 1,228 small business decision makers during the first week of June 2022, spanning all key industry sectors

The second tranche was conducted by MaruBlue among a representative sample of 1,228 small business decision makers, spanning all key industry sectors.