SMEs are key to the global economy, employing millions of people and contributing to significant economic growth. While the environmental footprint of one small business may not be a big deal, when considered altogether, the impact of the SME economy on the environment becomes far more evident. By Damian Hanson, Co-Founder & Director of CircleLoop

Small businesses are feeling the pressure to reduce their carbon footprint and build sustainable business models, yet without the resources that larger businesses have, they undoubtedly need support and guidance to do this properly.

The Current Landscape of SMEs and Sustainability

Data from Time Finance has shown that half of UK SMEs anticipate investing in sustainability in 2023 as pressure mounts for businesses to cut their carbon emissions in line with the Government’s 2050 Net Zero targets. More and more we are seeing SMEs recognise the benefits of adopting sustainable practices.

Setting sustainability goals and measuring progress can help SMEs track their efforts and ensure that they are making progress towards becoming a greener business at every level. Many established environmental bodies can also offer support to businesses, such as helping to identify ways to reduce energy usage or improve recycling practices. Communicating your efforts with customers and stakeholders ensures there is accountability for green commitments and builds strong external trust in businesses. 

New technology also plays a pivotal role in business sustainability. Innovative solutions are emerging all the time that are greener and leaner and can help SMEs find eco-friendly solutions to help reduce their carbon footprint or optimise energy usage. 

The Best Ways to Become a Sustainable Business Using Technology

Technology can play a significant role in helping SMEs become more sustainable. Here are some ways that it can help from my experience:

  • Use cloud-based tools to reduce paper usage

Cloud-based software can help businesses reduce paper usage by providing a digital alternative to traditional paperwork. Using online tools for document management, storage and collaboration, SMEs can significantly reduce their paper consumption and associated waste while promoting a clutter-free environment.

  • Enable remote work to reduce commuting and transport-related emissions

Technology enables remote work, which could reduce the need for employees to commute to an office. This not only reduces transportation-related emissions but could also offer cost savings for SMEs by reducing the need for office space.

  • Cloud-based tools are more energy-efficient than traditional software and hardware

Cloud-based tools and services are often more energy-efficient than traditional software and hardware. Remote servers can be optimised for energy efficiency, resulting in lower energy consumption and carbon emissions. You can also recycle any old hardware that may no longer be in use.

  • Use highly scalable technology that helps prevent over-provisioning and reduces waste

Technology is highly scalable, meaning businesses can adjust their usage as their needs change. This helps prevent over-provisioning, reducing waste and energy consumption associated with unnecessary hardware or software.

By leveraging technology in these ways, SMEs can become more sustainable, reducing their environmental impact, and improving their bottom line.

Moving Forward…

The progress SMEs continue to make is crucial if the UK is to reach Net Zero emissions by 2050. 93% of SMEs believe sustainability challenges are paramount, and 83% say they have become more important over the last year. 

Technology offers numerous opportunities for SMEs to become more sustainable, reduce their carbon footprint and stand out in a competitive market. From cloud-based tools and software to remote work options, technology can help businesses reduce waste, save money, and improve their environmental impact.

In going ‘green’, SMEs can not only make their contribution to a global problem but also show an awareness of the world outside their business that benefits their brand. Customers already expect businesses to make eco commitments, it’s just good business to reflect on how your business can meet those expectations in some way.