Business turning back on green policies

by Published Tue 18 Aug 2009 08:57, Last updated: 2009-08-18
Business use of green policies is dropping

Businesses are turning their backs on green policies, with over half claiming they are "no use" in the current economic climate.

Government survey website found just one in five small and medium businesses (SMEs) had plans to follow a green policy next year. The survey found a 75 percent drop in companies with an environment management system in the 7,000 companies surveyed.

A third of all SMEs could not name a single piece of environmental legislation that affects their business and nearly half of all businesses admitted they do things that harm the environment.

The most common activities were storing waste (42 percent), storing chemicals, fuels or oil (38 percent) and producing, importing, selling or using packaging (29 percent).

Debbie Chatting, Strategy Manager at, said: “It’s good to see improvement in SMEs’ green business activities, but efforts are clearly starting to fall back in many areas. Our survey has unearthed a level of denial among some small businesses that still don’t acknowledge the harm that they can do to the environment, nor recognise the business opportunity greening their operations presents to them.

"SMEs make up 99 percent of British business so their cumulative impact is huge; they simply cannot be apathetic or maintain indifference.”

Falling awareness levels are a likely by-product of recession-driven cuts. Chatting is calling for a ‘Green Ambassador’ to be employed by all of Britain’s SMEs after figures showed there was a drop in the number of companies who have a dedicated environment officer.

She explained: “Many companies in the supply chain now include specific environmental questions in their tender forms, so by building measures into your business plan, training your staff and taking an environmentally responsible stance throughout your business, you will reap the rewards of winning more work. And you’ll comply with the law.

"The research shows SMEs are facing ever higher fines for environmentally unfriendly practice, with an average fine of £10,000 for guilty companies. Environment Agency figures show nearly half of all industrial polluting is carried out by SMEs.

"However, there was some promising news. Over half (55 percent) of small and medium-sized businesses now have measures in place to reduce the harm they do to the environment, and 84 percent are recycling their waste, up from 66 percent in 2007.

Chatting continued: “NetRegs has developed a simple online self-assessment checklist, which is free and can help identify green measures that will save most businesses real cash. In fact businesses that receive NetRegs’ free regular updates save around £2,600 a year. Environment, profit and staff motivation go hand in hand.”

The survey of 7,000 SMEs in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, across 10 industrial sectors, took place during March 2009.

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