Earth Day 2022: 56% of UK SMEs feel it’s too late to reverse climate change

This Earth Day, a report by Ecologi has revealed that 91% of SME owners in the UK believe it’s important to be sustainable but they struggle due to a lack of guidance (42%), efficient carbon footprint data (37%) and time (37%).

The survey of 500 UK SME owners found that eight-in-ten SMEs want their business to be more sustainable, while 83% feel that the government needs to do more to educate and support them in their sustainability efforts.

This comes despite the government offering funding to help businesses in the UK become more sustainable as part of their commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

On a more promising note, the majority (84%) feel their company is as environmentally friendly as it claims to be, with 67% of SMEs already having a sustainability strategy in place for their enterprise.

Three-in-ten SMEs admit their business ought to be more sustainable than it currently is, with nearly a third (31%) blaming the pandemic for getting in the way of their short-term plans.

Amidst a historically high level of concern over environmental issues in the UK, particularly following COP26 and this year’s IPCC report, three-quarters (75%) of entrepreneurs feel overwhelmed about how their organisation can tackle climate change.

While a stark 56% are reluctant to introduce a policy because they feel it’s too late to reverse climate change.

Elliot Coad, CEO and Co-Founder of Ecologi, said: “It’s promising to see how many businesses are already trying to make sustainable changes, but it’s concerning that so many are still confused and some even believe it’s too late to make a difference.”

SMEs who responded to the survey said they’re doing everything in their power to be greener, with almost three-quarters (72%) of owners believing sustainable initiatives are worthwhile and an encouraging 85% recognising that it’s important for their company to be considered sustainable. Organisations are also feeling pressure from younger employees (80%) to improve their environmental credentials.

Despite more and more businesses committing to be net-zero or carbon neutral, seven-in-ten respondents admitted that they don’t fully understand this kind of terminology. To help business owners navigate around tackling the climate crisis and improve their green credentials, 22% already have a dedicated sustainability officer in place.

Coad continued: “The smallest of changes can have a big impact, so we want to help SMEs realise this and understand the steps they can take to help the environment. Through collective action, individuals and businesses can have a real, tangible impact in combating climate change.”

The research, which was conducted by OnePoll, supports Ecologi’s Power of Possible campaign which saw the company team up with entrepreneur Steven Bartlett to spread the word about how businesses can be more sustainable.

Steven Bartlett, Entrepreneur, Speaker and Investor on BBC’s Dragon’s Den, said: “From these survey results it is clear that more guidance needs to be given to navigate around a very important but overwhelming climate situation, whether it’s providing more funding from the government, receiving training on how to tackle the issues or signing up for a climate action platform, like Ecologi.

“There’s no denying it’s companies like theirs who are so instrumental to helping organisations be more sustainable, and if every business takes a small action it will amount to a significant change.”

Earth day reminds us what businesses can do 

Jessica McGoverne, Director of Policy and Corporate Affairs at Sedex, comments: “This year’s Earth Day reminds us that investing in the right tools is essential for businesses to tackle environmental issues. We’re calling on companies to take a data-led approach to address environmental risks and impacts, and to harness the power of data to drive their progress in all Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) areas.

“ESG management and reporting are growing priorities for business, but are complex and daunting. Yet the benefits are undeniable – protecting the environment and communities in supply chains protects business reputation, improves operational efficiency, and helps ensure business continuity by safeguarding resources and communities for the future. Businesses are also crucial agents of change in global efforts to combat the climate crisis.

“With the right data, alongside the right technology to store and draw insights from it, businesses can understand how environmental damage affects the people and ecosystems in their supply chain, take action, and measure their ESG performance.

“For example, our risk tool can reveal the highest-risk countries and sectors for environmental issues such as excessive greenhouse gas emissions or air, water and land pollution – enabling businesses to prioritise where they conduct specific assessments to understand the actual impacts to people and the planet in their supply chain.”

Christophe Peymirat, Head of Uber for Business at EMEA, comments: “Earth Day is an opportunity for business leaders to ensure they’re doing all they can to make sustainable choices on behalf of their staff. Commitments in this form can also encourage staff to make positive changes in their personal lives too.

“We appreciate that not every business has the means to aim for 100% sustainability, however, there are small steps that can be taken. But the very first step in encouraging sustainability is offering employees the choice to make more sustainable decisions.

“For example, providing access to technologies which allow employees to take electric cars, or even carpool with other colleagues, to even removing plastic cutlery from group food orders at work. Both can make a big difference to the environment.

“At Uber for Business, we have a range of sustainability commitments. One recent development we’re particularly proud of is Uber Green, which helps businesses move their staff around cities via rides in electric cars. Each Uber Green trip results in at least 25% fewer emissions, compared with the average UberX trip. This means less local pollution and fewer climate-related emissions. We’re also committed to being a zero-emission platform by 2040.

“We want to help more businesses meet their corporate sustainability goals, which is why we’re doing all we can to promote and encourage greener lifestyles.”