Green Business: Sustainable & Responsible

Sustainability Agenda

Small and medium-sized enterprises: their role in the sustainability debate

Sustainability AgendaACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) says that small businesses can be sustainable and responsible, and that these two worthy attributes are not the sole domain of large business.

In the UK, according to the Carbon Trust, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) generate a quarter of C02 emissions a year. So they have a part to play in sustainable development (SD) and Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR).

Rachel Jackson, ACCA’s head of Social and Environmental Issues, says:

"ACCA believes that, as well as being compliant with all applicable social and environmental regulations, because of their economic and social significance, SMEs should be included within all voluntary SD and CSR programmes to the greatest extent possible.

"It is ACCA’s policy to work with relevant small business groups to ensure that SME initiatives in the sustainable development and Corporate and Social Responsibility area are appropriately targeted and proportional and that such initiatives benefit rather than stifle enterprise and innovation in the sector."

There are various activities SMEs can incorporate into everyday business processes to ensure that sustainability is incorporated at all levels of the organisation. These can include:

  • Implementing energy efficiency measures – reducing electricity use, using more efficient office equipment.
  • Reducing paper use – having a default of double sided printing and reducing printing in the first place.
  • Employee satisfaction – engaging regularly with employees to ensure satisfaction levels are high and making changes to conduct where needed.
  • Education of employees on sustainability issues to ensure that everyone is committed to driving improvements and change.

In its recent policy document called Going Concern? ACCA says that SMEs account for the majority of economic activity. For example, in the EU, there are approximately 23 million SMEs, constituting 99% of all enterprises. The sector generates two-thirds of all private-sector jobs, some 75 million and more than half (52%) of private-sector turnover is generated by SMEs.

From its Going Concern? report ACCA recommends that:

  • Governments should review the incentives provided by SME corporate taxation systems to increase the propensity of the SME sector to invest in cleaner technology
  • SMEs should become more proactive in the unfolding CSR debate and increase their profile and contribution within the growing number of initiatives, guidelines and standards being developed
  • Governments should produce guidance to help SMEs measure their key environmental and social impacts
  • Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) should develop a more accessible version of its current sustainability reporting guidelines for smaller organisations.

Read more business advice articles on Green Business issues.

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