Surge in eco-conscious small businesses hits record 12-month high

Tuesday 26th September 2023

Set against a year of erratic financial challenges, research from Novuna Business Finance reveals that small businesses remain steadfast and resolute in their commitment to being green.

The study polled over 1,000 small business leaders in the past 12 months and inquired about which areas of sustainability had become more important to their businesses compared to a year ago. The most significant changes over the last year are in the following five key areas: working with an ethical supply chain, increasing community activism, enhancing energy efficiency, improving packaging and waste management. Across the board, small businesses are intensifying their efforts.

The biggest green strides

  • Green Supply Chain Takes Centre Stage: Green businesses are increasingly prioritising ethical considerations over cost when it comes to their supply chain. Compared to 12 months ago, businesses are now placing greater importance on sourcing from and participating in an ethical supply chain (26% vs 14%). For those with net-zero plans in place, it was the top priority at 30%.

  • Giving something back: Company success now extends beyond profit to include social impact. The research shows that small businesses are placing greater emphasis on the positive impact their business can make in the community (31% 2023 vs 22% 2022), creating local jobs (27% vs 18%) and contributing to green initiatives (25% vs 18%). There is also an emphasis on monitoring reducing the harmful impact businesses could have on the community (24%).


  • Energising efforts: In line with the Government recent announcement of a new sustainability hub to support and help SMEs save on their energy bills[1], small businesses are turning energy price hikes into an opportunity for greater efficiency and renewable use (32% vs 26% in 2022). This is especially true for businesses with net-zero plans (35%) and those in the North East (43%).


  • Less Waste: With businesses now liable under the Extended Producer Responsibility scheme[2] for the cost of dealing with packaging waste, there has been a significant increase in the number of businesses prioritising ways of improving packaging and waste policies (27% vs 19%).

Biggest sustainability priorities for small businesses in the last 12 months



Reviewing energy usage of the premises (water use, heating, renewable energy)



Having a positive social impact in my immediate community



Creating jobs locally



Improving policies and facilities towards packaging and waste/recycling for products and services



Switching to greener forms of transport (cycling schemes, electric vehicles, public transport)



Improving working conditions and contracts for all employees (treating employees fairly)



Being part of an ethical supply chain



Contributing to local green initiatives e.g., Picking litter, community green energy initiatives (funding or involvement)



Investing in new equipment and sustainable infrastructure



Investing in recycling facilities for our business



National drive towards zero emission targets:

Around the UK there is a concerted effort towards driving sustainability, with each region prioritising different initiatives.

  • Businesses in the North East are concentrating on the green and cost benefits of reviewing current energy costs and exploring ways to be more energy-efficient (43%).
  • In Wales, the Northwest, and the West Midlands, businesses are focusing on the positive local impact they can make: 36% of businesses in the Northwest aim to make a positive impact on the community in which they work, businesses in Wales are focussing on developing local green initiatives (32%), and businesses in the West Midlands will be focussing their efforts on invest in local suppliers (31%).
  • Focusing on creating jobs and investing in their workforce is also key for businesses across the UK. Businesses in West Midlands are more likely to be focusing on bettering employee working conditions (33%), while businesses in the West Midlands, Scotland, and the East are committed to creating more local job opportunities (32%).

Most businesses would probably concede that it has been a really difficult year, with new challenges seemingly at every turn. However, the research suggests that, despite this, businesses are still making the time to focus on playing their part in the climate challenge. A certain amount of grit and determination is certainly evident and is also testament to the high importance and urgency that small businesses are placing on their efforts to be green and build a sustainable business.

At Novuna Business Finance, we work in partnership with small businesses to help them achieve their goals. This research is invaluable in helping us better understand how businesses are prioritising the green efforts, focussing perhaps on initiatives that will have the biggest impact in the short term, with an eye on the ultimate goal of achieving the net zero target for the longer term.

Jo Morris

Head of Insight

Novuna Business Finance


The research was conducted by Sago Quantitative Research Service in June 2023 among a representative sample of 1,027 small business decision makers.