Skills training and health and safety overshadow green issues for small businesses
Dealing with employment issues and health and safety is preventing small businesses from acting on their environmental concerns and saving money in the process, the Forum of Private Business (FPB) and the UK200Group are warning.
According to the ‘Business and the Environment’ survey carried out by the University of Middlesex, commissioned by the UK200Group, which represents independent accountants and lawyers, 80% of respondents classed environmental issues as a high priority.
However, measures such as reducing energy costs, which was a priority for 28% of the businesses surveyed, and waste reduction (a priority for 21% of respondents) were overshadowed by concerns over updating staff training and skills (51%) and health and safety (46%).
Companies were also asked whether they currently have green policies in place setting out their environmental aims and procedures. In all, 58% said they have not.
“Adopting a purely fire-fighting strategy when it comes to managing your environmental burden can leave companies out of pocket,” said the FPB‘s Environmental Adviser, Miranda Allan, the Managing Director of Allan Environmental Solutions, which is based in Wigan, Lancashire. “I would instead encourage firms of any size to try to reap the financial rewards available to those who take a more proactive stance.”
She added: “By evaluating and better managing the use of resources, as well as waste management, businesses can save between 5% and 10% of bottom line costs. In addition, using their new environmental credibility to the full by creating an environmental policy to explain their proactive stance and targets for the future can help secure future business with like-minded suppliers.”
Despite tax being consistently cited as among the major barriers to growth faced by members of the FPB, respondents to the UK200Group survey were largely split over introducing environmental taxes in order to encourage best practice.
Surprisingly, 45% of firms agreed or strongly agreed that green taxes are a good way of encouraging businesses to adopt strong environmental practices. However, some questioned the extent to which the revenue raised is used to protect the environment.
Further, the majority displayed a lack of knowledge about the specifics of environmental legislation. Although 42% disagreed or strongly disagreed with increasing legislation in order ensure environmental improvement, 53% agreed or strongly agreed with the idea. However, while about half could recall the general thrust of environmental laws that applied to them, only 45% could name the relevant legislation.
“Most of my clients have children or grandchildren, and more and more often I am finding clients’ decisions are influenced by environmental considerations,” said UK200 Group Chairman, Kevin Dickens.
“The cost-benefit analysis is never clear cut and decisions will continue to be made on feelings and instinct. Continuing to raise awareness and engage in discussions about the issues must be encouraged.”