A new survey of senior IT professionals across both SMEs and larger enterprises has found a major disparity in attitudes towards sustainability, with just a third of SMEs viewing environmental issues as important compared to 74% of large enterprises.
The study by research firm Quocirca was conducted across the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain and found that many SMEs struggle to see sustainability as anything other than extra cost. While half of larger enterprises agree that sustainability is worthwhile even if it costs more, only 18% of SMEs took the same view.
This reflects the differences in resources between the two sets of businesses, with just 9% of the SMEs included in the study claiming to have a resource in place dedicated to sustainability. This is compared to 57% of large enterprises, which Quocirca state is an indicator of the cause of a lack of understanding among SMEs of the benefits of environmental measures.
This is also reflected in the level of activity being taken by businesses of different sizes to address workplace energy efficiency, with 77% of large enterprises committed to a programme of action compared to just 42% of SMEs.
“SMEs need to become more proactive in sustainability or they risk missing out on [the] opportunities for improved efficiency, regulatory compliance and lower costs,” the research paper claims.
Quocirca has therefore suggested that SMEs should take steps to improve overall workplace energy efficiency by first gaining a better understanding of current usage and costs before looking for opportunities to save.
While this can include common measures such as low energy lighting or workplace behavioural changes, Quocirca has also suggested looking at the lifecycle costs of office equipment as well as its end of life procedures.
It has also called for greater external guidance and official policy on energy efficiency and other saving measures, echoing the findings of three recent reports from the Committee on Climate Change. These all pointed to a policy gap in energy efficiency for commercial properties, particularly SMEs which are “poorly addressed by existing policies”.
In response, the government admitted that UK businesses needed more support and pledged to bring forward a range of policies in the forthcoming national carbon emissions plan, expected in early 2017.