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 www.afs-smart.com.au/sme-report.pdf.

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

http://www.growmethemoney.com.au        www.whatcanidorightnow.com.au      www.carboncompass.com.au

 

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