However the findings show that many businesses are still focused on traditional ‘green’ activities, including energy saving and recycling rather than the broader range of sustainable business practices relating, for example, to supply chains and sourcing. It also highlights the fact that there are still businesses who do not believe there are any benefits to be gained from implementing such practices.
Stephen Pegge, External Relations Director, Lloyds Banking Group, said: “Businesses clearly see the benefits of sustainability, and they are carrying out their environmental responsibilities through recycling and being energy efficient.
“But for SMEs, sustainability also means interacting with charities, social enterprises and the community in which they operate; working responsibly within their supply chain and engaging with the next generation, through, for example, apprenticeship schemes.
“Some sectors are really leading the way and other industries across the UK economy can follow their example and help underpin the growth we are now seeing with practices that will give us all a sustainable future.”
The benefits reported
Most businesses that have implemented sustainable business practices (87 per cent) believe there are clear benefits in doing do:
• Over half believe it helps reduce their costs
• More than two fifths cite that it makes a positive contribution to the environment
• Just under a third believe it increases their profitability
• Over a quarter feel it makes them a more attractive employer
• A quarter believe it makes a positive contribution to the community
The risks of overlooking sustainability
Similarly, nearly nine out of ten businesses believe that ignoring sustainable business practices can be a risk:
• Nearly half believe it could have a negative impact on their costs
• Just under a half think it may harm their profits
• Over a third believe it will have an impact on their brand perception
• A third cite that it could have an impact on compliance with relevant legislation
• A fifth believe it will impact on their competitive edge
• Just under a third believe it could mean they are excluded from tender processes
• A fifth believe it improves their brand perception
Looking forward, a third expect to increase their investment in sustainable business practices over the next five years, while two fifths businesses expect their investment to remain flat. Only a small minority think they will cut back on spending in this area.
Of those businesses that still have no sustainable business practices, more than two fifths say they will start investing over the next five years. The key motivations of these future investors are to reduce costs and increase profitability; and also to make a positive contribution to the community.
The key practices these businesses plan to take on are similar to those focused upon by current sustainable businesses. They relate to the environment and being a responsible company. Engaging in charitable projects and working with the local community are not mentioned as a priority by any businesses who are intending to invest for the first time.
● Leaner (as a result of less waste and better supply chains)
● Greener (by reducing energy consumption and localised renewable generation)
● Keener (by engagement in effective CSR, workplace morale will blossom)
Sustainability is an overused word, but mainly because its opportunities are so far reaching. It is therefore beyond the role of one “sustainability champion” to find ways of being better – if every employee is engaged in identifying potential actions within their field of expertise, they will be the most ardent advocates, and this applies as much to SMEs as it does to large corporates.”
Stephen Pegge, added: “We are committed to doing all we can through mentoring and broader support to help small and medium sized business succeed, including recruiting over a thousand apprentices a year. Our sustainability website includes an interactive sustainability action planning tool to help businesses navigate the risks and opportunities and we also run a programme of nationwide business seminars on how to run a fully sustainable business.”