Australian SMEs’ thinking & practice on sustainability revealed

4 Jun 2010

Conducted by Australian Financial Services (AFS) and Net Balance, an in depth study of Australian small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) has found that whilst the majority (77 per cent) are willing to take action on sustainability, recent times have seen a drop in sustainability activities undertaken by these businesses.
SMEs appeared more willing to commit to action when an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) appeared inevitable and a global agreement on action seemed possible. The decline in commitment seems to have coincided with:

  • The failure of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to agree binding international targets on reducing emissions;
  • Debate on the credibility of forecast increases in global temperatures by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); and
  • The election of Tony Abbott to the Liberal Leadership and the subsequent reversal of Opposition support for the ETS.

Note: the survey concluded prior Prime Minister Rudd’s decision to delay emissions trading to 2013.

The survey “What Australia’s SMEs say and do about Sustainability and Climate Change” was carried out in two waves, one before last year’s Copenhagen Conference and one after, encompassed 1,600 SME owners, chief executives and decisions makers. Some of the key findings are outlined below:

  • A significant proportion would be willing to take a short term hit to their financial bottom line to become more sustainable – 51 per cent in 2009, 45 per cent in 2010.
  • The biggest drop between the two research waves was in the number of SMEs who didn’t trust the available information on sustainability – up from 29 per cent to 46 per cent.
  • 60 per cent said the choices they did have were too expensive, without Government subsidy.
  • A majority of SMEs believe their business is environmentally friendly – but when asked, 80 per cent said they were not taking any deliberate actions within their business.
  • In the 2010 survey wave, 36 per cent said Australia was acting too slowly on climate change – down from 43 per cent in the 2009 research.
  • In 2010, 45 per cent said Government achievement on sustainability, including its impact on their business will decide their vote in the next election – up from 39 per cent in the first research wave in 2009.

The most popular actions on sustainability are in waste reduction, energy efficiency and water conservation. All areas in which SMEs can see cost reductions in return for investment.

To read the full report, go to

For cost effective and practical solutions which business can take to improve sustainability performance visit these links:


Our Community

Currently Carbon Compass Has:
865 Businesses signed up
Businesses who have signed up and created a profile on Carbon Compass.
81 Carbon saving actions
How many actions are available on this site for businesses.
441,169 Kgs of carbon saved
How many kg's of carbon have been saved by users of this site.

Free Energy Efficiency Helpline

(03) 8662 5490

We can help you find and calculate savings, and source and compare quotes.

FREE for businesses with less than 200 staff

Are you a Victorian Business? Answer our survey!

Find, rate and review resources

Find the resource you're looking for and offer your feedback using our easy to use rate and review system. See what other businesses think of resources and find the top rated resources.

Ask and answer questions

Use our questions section if you need help finding the right resource, or share your knowledge with other businesses on Carbon Compass.



Expand your network connections and learn more about sustainable business practices. See what resources other businesses in your industry are using to become more sustainable.

Add a resource and have it rated

Do you have a resource to share with us? Add them to our directory to build your sustainability profile and gain constructive feedback from your business peers.