10.04.2006

SME-nvironment Survey

There is increasing pressure on businesses in all sectors to improve their
environmental performance, driven by growing customer pressure, changing
legislation and rising waste disposal costs. However, many small and
mediumsized businesses still have low awareness of their environmental
obligations and are failing to take the sustained action needed to reduce their
environmental impact.

NetRegs, which guides small businesses through environmental regulations in the
United Kingdom, has published the results of a survey to assess the level of
environmental awareness and compliance amongst small to medium sized
enterprises (SMEs).  5,554 businesses were surveyed UK-wide, stratified by
country, business sector and size of business. The sample was selected to
ensure that an equal number of interviews could be achieved for each business
sector within each of the four UK countries.

The vast majority of UK businesses surveyed still do not consider that their
activities have any potential environmental impact. Only 7% of businesses
readily acknowledged that they undertook activities that could cause harm to
the environment. Overall, the environmental awareness and performance of small
and mediumsized businesses in the UK has improved and it is encouraging that
two-thirds of businesses surveyed had implemented at least one practical
environmental measure. However, introducing a single measure such as recycling
is not enough to deliver real change and too few smaller businesses have an
environmental policy or EMS to tackle their environmental impact on a broader
scale. Things are moving in the right direction but not as fast as they need to.

Clearly, there is still a serious perception gap that needs to be tackled in
terms of businesses acknowledging their own environmental impact, particularly
with smaller SMEs. If businesses do not think their behaviour makes any
difference then they are not likely to change it. This may also explain to some
degree why so many of the businesses surveyed are unaware of the environmental
legislation affecting their activities.

Not surprisingly, there are big differences in awareness, knowledge and
activity between sectors. In general, those sectors that are most regulated or
have the greatest potential environmental impacts are more aware and more
likely to take environmental action. However, this is not always the case and
it is important that businesses from all sectors understand their environmental
impact and take action to reduce it.

Interestingly, the majority of businesses surveyed that had taken positive
action said they had done so out of general concern for the environment rather
than to comply with legislation or reduce costs, and this was particularly true
of the smallest businesses. However, it seems likely that to take further
action, businesses need to be more directly motivated by commercial benefits.
It is therefore worrying that the majority of those asked still do not believe
that making environmental improvements can help increase sales, improve
competitiveness and motivate staff.

Consistent information from a range of sources, combined with more effective
government support and increased supply chain pressure is required to persuade
smaller businesses of the benefits of tackling environmental issues and help
them to start making changes throughout their business. The NetRegs website -
which offers small businesses clear guidance on their environmental obligations
and good practice advice - is a sensible starting point for businesses with
limited time and resources that want to improve their environmental
performance.

Further info


AplusA-online.de - Source: NetRegs