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Racing to a Net-Zero Future
by Rieva Lesonsky
April 26, 2022
Person holding a plant pot that looks like planet earth with green background

Last week we celebrated Earth Day, reminding us of the fragility of the environment. A first-of-its-kind survey from the SME Climate Hub reveals that small and medium-sized businesses are concerned about the climate but need more resources and guidance to help them reduce carbon emissions. (It’s a global United Nations-backed survey, that’s why it refers to SME and not SMB.)

The survey found that 50% of small businesses already calculate their carbon emissions, and 60% have made plans to reduce their carbon impact. But small business owners are concerned that they lack the ability to take on the climate crisis because they:

  • Don’t have the right resources—68%
  • Don’t have the “right skills and knowledge”—63%
  • Don’t have the proper funding—48%
  • Don’t have the time—40%

That said, 80% have made reducing emissions a “high priority” and are taking action to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by:

  • Reducing their energy consumption and waste—82%
  • Educating employees—64%
  • Upgrading their facilities and equipment—52%

The SMBs understand the importance of tackling the climate crisis—96% say it’s “the right thing to do” and are now prioritizing taking action to:

  • Enhance their company’s reputation—73%
  • Differentiate themselves from their competitors—61%
  • Meet customer expectations—42%

Barriers to Taking Action

The SME Climate Hub is trying to address the concern about lacking the proper skills and knowledge by providing information about where and how to get started and the available tools to help. 

As noted above, the second biggest barrier to taking action is a lack of funding, and 69% of the SMBs say they need access to external funds to reduce their emissions faster or at all. Only 33% have been offered a financial incentive to reduce emissions.

The global definition of a small business matches the one in the U.S.—a company with fewer than 500 employees. And while it may seem the actions of one small business won’t really impact the climate, 90% of all businesses in the world are small. So the combined effect of small businesses taking action would make a significant impact.

Tools to Help Reduce Emissions

To address the resource needs of small businesses, the SME Climate Hub has launched tools for education, skills development, and financial incentives.

“The most important thing is to get started. Every organization is a part of the journey, and every forward step matters,” says Kristian Rönn, CEO and co-founder of Normative. To that end, Normative has developed a free Industry CO2 Insights tool so you can calculate your company’s carbon footprint.

Last fall, the SME Climate Hub launched Climate Fit, a step-by-step resource developed by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) and Business for Social Responsibility covering topics including strategy, operations, governance, and the supply chain, to help SMBs learn practical skills to reduce their carbon emissions.

A financial support guide was released ​​to improve access to financing for the SMBs currently working to reduce their carbon emissions to address the financing gap. The SME Climate Hub also offers a reporting framework developed in collaboration with Normative, CDP, and the Exponential Roadmap Initiative, intended to help small businesses guide their reporting of climate impacts and strategies. 

Johan Falk, one of the co-founders of the SME Climate Hub and head of the Exponential Roadmap Initiative, says their goal is “to help millions of small businesses develop climate action plans and provide them with a commercial boost for doing so.”

If you want to join the “race to a net-zero future,” check out the SME Climate Hub and get advice from your SCORE mentor. Don’t have a mentor? You can find one here.


About the author
Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is president and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog
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