A long way to go

Small businesses are starting to think about their impact on the environment – the problem is, they don’t know the law well enough to realise when they’re breaking it.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

To be fair, if you’re running an SME, you probably have more important things to worry about than the latest piece of environmental legislation – stuff like having enough cash to pay the bills, and convincing people to work for you. Which is probably why 24 percent of small business owners can name a single such law off the top of your heads, according to a government body (to be honest, we’re surprised the number was that high).

The SME-nvironment survey by NetRegs, a partnership between all the UK environmental agencies, shows that nearly half of SMEs are starting to improve their green credentials, usually by recycling (cited by two-thirds of respondents), cutting down waste or introducing an environmental policy.

Unlike the big boys, these are often companies that can’t afford to do this purely as a marketing exercise – which suggests that attitudes are shifting in the right direction. Indeed, 65 percent even think good environmental practice can trim operating costs.

However, there is still a big awareness issue, according to NetRegs. 15% of SMEs claimed to have been involved in environmentally harmful activity – but when presented with a list of possibles, the real figure turned out to be nearly 50%. That’s presumably why SMEs got hit with £2.4m in environmental fines last year.

NetRegs wants to try and fill the knowledge gap by offering SMEs an online tool that will compile a free environmental policy for them. But unfortunately they can’t alter the fact that complying with government red tape eats into the most valuable of all commodities for small business owners – time.

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