UK small businesses focused on green shoots, not green credentials

A new study sponsored by UPS shows that nearly two thirds (64%) of small businesses do not have a written sustainability strategy (Q1) or set of sustainability policies (Q2), despite increasing pressure from customers and suppliers.

The study is based on opinion research among owner managers in 400 small businesses across the UK.

Preservation: Small businesses are fighting for survival

In the current difficult trading environment, more than half (59%) of small businesses report that they are not currently focused on sustainability as they are too busy attempting to survive and grow. (Q9)

Two thirds (66%) of owner managers believe that the capital outlay required to reduce their company's environmental impact is currently prohibitive. (Q9)

More than two thirds (68%) of small businesses say their company's investment in sustainable practices has decreased since the onset of the global economic crisis. (Q8)

"In a difficult financial environment, it's natural that businesses should focus on survival and growth. However, with consumers and suppliers increasingly demanding environmentally responsible practices, those businesses that embrace sustainability measures will have a competitive advantage in the long run," said Cindy Miller, managing director at UPS UK, Ireland & Nordics, "Outsourcing logistics with a sustainable supplier can be a cost-effective way to reduce a business' environmental footprint, leaving owners and managers free to focus on the day-to-day running of the company. Sustainability, innovation and business growth are inextricably linked."

Climate change: Increasing focus on sustainability

The vast majority (92%) of small businesses report having to meet a rising number of sustainability targets when dealing with large customers. (Q20)

Similarly, nearly three quarters (71%) of small businesses believe customers are increasingly interested in the sustainability credentials of their suppliers. (Q18)

Yet small businesses are finding it difficult to respond to this demand and are struggling to incorporate sustainability into their strategies.

Nearly two thirds (64%) of small businesses do not have a written sustainability strategy (Q1) or set of sustainability policies (Q2) while less than a third (31%) currently offset all of their carbon emissions. (Q3)

Almost all (98%) small businesses believe the Government should do more to support small businesses in improving their focus on sustainability. (Q10)

Alongside this, more than three quarters (77%) of owner managers believe they would achieve greater carbon savings if they increased the outsourcing of their logistics operations. (Q17c)

"Consumers have turned a green corner," wrote Peter Harris, UPS director of sustainability for Europe, in a recent blog post. "Long gone are the days where brands used green business gimmicks as a key differentiator in the market. In the modern marketplace, ethical business practice is not only expected, it's assumed."

UPS and Sustainable Solutions

UPS understands the complexities of balancing small business growth, innovation and sustainability. As a proven industry leader in sustainability, UPS continues to offer products and services that emphasize efficiencies while easily addressing environmental concerns, including UPS carbon neutral shipping, Carbon Impact Analysis and an Eco Responsible Packaging Program.  Consumers can select UPS carbon neutral shipping on all UPS package products via UPS shipping systems. This measurement and offset process, which is available in more than 36 countries, is transparently reviewed and certified by reputable global third party organizations. Carbon Impact Analysis calculates the carbon emissions of a customer's UPS shipments, allowing them to more precisely measure the climate impact of their shipping. The UPS Eco Responsible Packaging Program is a contract program created to evaluate a customer's packaging systems for damage prevention, right-sizing and materials content.

About the research

Independent opinion research was conducted among 400 owner managers of small businesses comprising 10-49 employees in Autumn 2012.

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