British SMEs Make Sustainability A Main Priority For 2014

The response from a study by Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking shows how many small businesses are realising the key role sustainability can have as they look to build confidence.

More than half of those surveyed said they understood the cost benefits of adopting sustainable business practices, with a number already noticing improved profitability resulting from this.

Other benefits mentioned included contributing to the environment in a more positive way, being a more attractive business to work for and a better role in the community.

While the majority of small firms see sustainability as important to their business, they were still tending to focus on traditional practices such as energy efficiency and environmental schemes. These smaller companies are less likely to provide a clear code of conduct for their business, work with local charities, adopt an ethical sourcing policy and work responsibly within a supply chain.

External relations director at the financial services provider, Stephen Pegge, said: “Businesses clearly see the benefits of sustainability, and they are carrying out their environmental responsibilities through recycling and being energy efficient.

“But for SMEs, sustainability also means interacting with charities, social enterprises and the community in which they operate; working responsibility within their supply chain and engaging with the next generation, through, for example, apprenticeship schemes.”

Over the next five years, a third of SMEs are hoping to increase their investment in this area. At present, 78 per cent have revealed that their sustainability investment level is less than 5 per cent of their company turnover.

Risks have also been associated with overlooking sustainability, with almost 90 per cent of respondents feeling that their business could be harmed if they ignored it. Brand perception, company profits and the ability to retain a competitive edge were business areas that were listed as those that could be affected through this perceived neglect.