More than half of UK SMEs have invested in sustainability in the last year

In the last year, 53% of UK SMEs have joined brands like Love Island to invest in sustainability.

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In proof that the trend of green working is here to stay, new research from Aldermore has found that UK SMEs invested an average of £61,250 on sustainability initiatives in the last year.

The research also found that the average SME business plans to spend a further £78,392 on sustainability in the coming year – an increase of 27%.

Sustainable working was one of the key trends we highlighted in our top business ideas for 2022.

Following COP26, the UN summit on climate change hosted in Glasgow last year, it’s clear that the UK’s small business population is undergoing a significant green transformation.

Indeed, the research reveals that SMEs plan to increase their investment in sustainability by 27% in 2023. That will put the average up to a notable £78,392 per business.

Consumer habits cause green actions

Aldermore conducted the same survey among SMEs in early 2021. Then, only 12% of businesses saw sustainability as a significant priority.

Such a jump in sustainability consciousness in just 12 months is impressive. It is representative of a number of eco-friendly drivers. The chief culprit, however, is consumer behaviour.

Concerns about the climate crisis have a direct impact on consumer and business lifestyles. Organisations and experts are urging buyers to make drastic changes. Many are listening and changing their shopping habits.

Indeed, Deloitte’s 2021 sustainability and consumer report found that 32% of consumers were highly engaged with adopting a more sustainable lifestyle last year.

The same report found that consumers want brands to lead the charge. 64% of consumers want brands to reduce packaging, 50% want more information on how to recycle and 46% said they desire clarity on sourcing of products.

As a result, 2022 has seen a number of household-names move towards greener initiatives.

That includes the popular reality TV show, Love Island, which dropped its previous sponsor Missguided in favour of second-hand marketplace eBay early in the year.

Jem Young co-owns No Forks Given Fabrications, an upcycling firm that turns old cutlery into art. Young says: “There's definitely more interest in upcycling now than there was five years ago. I think people are much more aware that we go through far too much waste and energy and want to help in their own little way, whether that's buying or creating.”

Can my business afford to go sustainable?

Many of the UK SMEs surveyed by Aldermore said they plan to fund their investment in sustainability with business savings.

However, 60% said they will use personal finance products such as savings and credit cards to fund the investment.

Still, going green does not have to be an expensive investment for SMEs.

Last year, we spoke to Gary Styles, the founder of green-tech startup Zellar, for his tips for how to go sustainable on a budget.

Aldermore’s pollees would agree. In terms of the barriers to embracing more sustainable practices, less than one in ten (7%) found access to finance was a barrier.

In fact, the research shows that SMEs have employed a wide variety of strategies to become more sustainable – many of which cost little to introduce.

The leading approach has been recycling, with 65% of SMEs surveyed investing in workplace recycling schemes.

Other low-cost solutions include cycling to work, clearing out inboxes, and using sustainable cleaning products.

Tim Boag, group managing director, business finance at Aldermore, said: “It’s hugely encouraging to see that businesses are increasingly willing to address the issue of sustainability and it will be the ingenuity and drive of SME owners that will help make much of the UK’s green transformation possible.”

As the nation becomes gripped by eco-friendly shopping habits, green-eyed small business owners will be poised for victory.

Are you an entrepreneur who wants to get involved in the green revolution? Our guide to the top sustainable initiatives for small businesses is full of clever, carbon-crushing methods to adopt in 2022.

Helena Young
Helena Young Senior Writer

Helena "Len" Young is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has also previously written for a popular fintech startup.

Included in her topics of interest and expertise are tax legislation, the levelling up agenda, and organisational software including CRM and project management systems. As well as this, she is a big fan of the films of Peter Jackson.

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