Small businesses are crying out for the clarity & consistency they need in green policies if they are to grow, a new report has found. Energy use tops their worries.

Recent back-tracking by Rishi Sunak in crucial green drives, including delaying the phasing out of new fossil-fuelled cars and approving more oil extraction in the North Sea, are weakening firms’ intentions towards sustainability, says the report, Small Business Perspective on Sustainability – The Mandate for Support from a new UK Government”.

Ahead of this year’s still undeclared General Election, researchers hired by Novuna Business Finance sought to measure SME owners’ desire to boost their firms’ sustainability.

Clearer guidance from Westminster is needed across a range of green initiatives, researchers found, if firms making up Britain’s commercial heartland are not to lose heart.

Two years ago, Novuna’s research reveals, fewer than 60% of SMEs were working on at least one internal sustainability drive.

By February 2024, the survey finds, that share had soared to 92%.  Typical small businesses now juggle three or more green drives at the same time.  Nearly a fifth are managing at least five projects.

Topics most exercising SMES in their green-seeking ambition, the study shows, include

  • reviewing or switching energy usage (31%),
  • having a positive environmental impact on a firm’s immediate community (29%),
  • cutting out packaging and waste/recycling (28%)
  • switching to greener forms of transport (cycling schemes, electric vehicles, public transport).

The report also highlights how Sunak’s recent policy U-turns, intended to retain Far Right voters and science-deniers, are sowing doubt in Britain’s boardrooms.

Nearly a quarter of small businesses now feel less confident about obtaining grants to fund green initiatives (23%), Novuna’s report discovers. One in five told the survey they are now looking to adopt green and sustainable measures at a slower pace.

Fourteen per cent said green initiatives have fallen in their business priorities, reflecting ministers’ changes of heart.  12% were blunter, agreeing with the view “If the government doesn’t take sustainability seriously, why should I?”

Novuna asked small businesses too what green policies they hoped for from a new government.

Topping the firms’ wish list, 73% sought more and firmer Whitehall backing for renewable energy. 72% seek wider, more substantial investment in the green economy.  On a par were government pledges to ban single-use plastics, crack down on littering and plant more trees.

The answers imply frustration widespread in boardrooms at Labour’s retreat from its  pledge to spend £28 Billion from day one to expand low carbon power.

From Novuna Business Finance, researcher Jo Morris commented: “Too often the sustainability debate circles around big brands. There is an urgent need to better understand the small business community’s views on key issues.”

“Our report contributes a better understanding of SMEs, the crucial role they play in supporting sustainability – and the support they need to achieve more.”

For a copy of Novuna’s report, email here.


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