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Small Businesses Frustrated With Fragmented Approach To Sustainability

New research suggests that while small businesses remain committed to tackling climate change themselves, there are frustrations about the broader community that not enough is being done.

With the slogan for the Davos Forum 2023, “Cooperation in a fragmented world”, the new research highlights the desire from small businesses to work together.

Novuna Business Finance asked 1,027 small businesses about their views on whether enough was being done within their wider community when it came to tackling climate change.

The results showed that around four in five small business leaders believed other businesses, regulatory bodies, national and local government, and industry networks were all falling short.

Going solo rather than working together
Asking the reasons why this might be, the most common frustration was that there were too many companies that did not appear to be taking the issue seriously enough (24%) – unsurprisingly rising most among business leaders in the Scientific sector (45%), and businesses that had just started (38% of businesses that had started within the last 2 years).

A lack of cohesion to address the issue was the next most common frustration, with 23% saying small businesses tended to do their own thing rather than working together, which was particularly a frustration for those in the transport and distribution sector (40%).

Around one in five (21%) said there was not enough clarity about initiatives that all businesses within their sectors could support. This was the top issue for businesses in the professional services sectors including finance and accounting (30%), legal (25%), IT (23%), and real estate (23%).

Similarly, there was frustration about the extent to which networks and industry associations prioritised environmental issues and giving guidance (17%). Again, this rose most in service sectors including the media (33%), legal (25%) and real estate (25%) sectors.

A lack of guidance
Separately, the research found that small business leaders felt a sense of uncertainty as to who to turn to for sound advice and inspiration. Around a quarter (27%) told Novuna Business Finance that it is up to the big influencers in society (Government and big business) to lead the charge cutting carbon emissions, and when they lead small businesses will follow.

Further to this, a quarter of small businesses expressed a sense of guilt for not doing enough themselves to curb carbon emissions within their immediate business and felt held back by a number of internal factors (89%). For many the lack of perceived budget is having the biggest impact (24%) – while others say their main focus is in keeping the business afloat (21%).

Small business leaders did however claim responsibility for the issues, with 27% having said it is up to the individuals within organisations; to educate themselves on the issues and to take action both at work and at home. There is an understanding within the community that small businesses themselves have the ability to stimulate change and influence others (23%) – this was found to be particularly true for younger businesses (28%).

Jo Morris, Head of Insight at Novuna Business Finance commented: “Small businesses are undoubtably a force for change. Over the last few years of lockdown, we have seen the UK small business community’s ability to adapt and evolve – managing the challenges that confront them. Our research has shown however that there appears to be a lack of cohesion in the community, with many small businesses not knowing who to turn to for sound advice. The climate crisis is a global challenge that we must all take collective responsibly for. It is up to everyone to make changes in the ways we work and live to secure a brighter future for us all. We all have a part to play and can only achieve sustainable carbon reduction by working together.”

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