Accountants have urged policymakers and regulators to do more to help small businesses adopt sustainable business practices.
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) says in a report that SMEs across Europe have been slow to adopt environment-related improvements and are “maginalised” in the debate about such practices.
The report, Embedding Sustainability in SMEs, says that only 29% of SMEs in the EU have introduced measures to save energy or raw materials compared with 46% of large enterprises.
In its new policy paper, ACCA’s Global Forum for SMEs has called for action to help smaller businesses become more efficient and environmentally friendly. It says that many small businesses are run by owner-managers who have the freedom to implement sustainability practices – or ignore them.
“This is why it is important that governments and business-support professionals ensure that SMEs are aware of the quick gains they can make through increased efficiency, and of the grants, financial assistance and incentives that may be available for those which commit to cutting emissions or which reduce waste,” it says.
According to the paper, SMEs should follow five steps:
- commit the business publicly to taking action
- assess the business’ impact
- set targets for reducing impact
- act to reduce impact
- publish business policies and actions
Accountants are urged to work with sustainability experts to review the environmental sustainability of their own business, then use that experience to have relevant conversations, based on genuine experience, with their clients.
Mark Gold, chairman of ACCA’s Global Forum for SMEs, said: “All too often, small business is overlooked when it comes to environmental and sustainability issues.
“But in terms of economic activity, employment and waste, small businesses make a huge impact and it is critical that they and those who advise and regulate them, recognise this and begin to take steps to tackle waste, promote efficiency and ensure that sustainability is at the forefront of their thinking.”