SMEs mindful of environment in energy efficiency drive 

Small company owners are actively seeking to improve energy efficiency in their business, and not just for cost reasons.

Nine in ten small companies seek to be more energy efficient in their own business, according to a study by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

Some 78 per cent list cost savings as a motivator, but 70 per cent say protecting the environment is an important motivator for action. 

A quarter highlight improved energy efficiency as a way to attract customers and help promote their business.

Smart meters will be a vital tool for giving small businesses the information they need to make the right decisions on energy use, says the FSB.

The lobbying group has called for the hardware roll out to be supported by an ongoing package of information and support from energy companies.

FSB national chairman John Allan says, ‘Small businesses are really enthusiastic about energy efficiency and this desire should be capitalised on for the good of their business and the environment. However, what our research does tell us is a simple ‘one-size fits all’ approach will not work as different businesses are driven by a diverse range of factors.’

Looking at the action taken by small businesses, three fifths of small businesses (58 per cent) say they have already taken small steps towards energy efficiency, such as installing energy efficient lighting and equipment.

However, many say they were prevented from going further by a number of obstacles which include: not owning the premises where they operate (45 per cent), a poor understanding of the options available (20 per cent), and a lack of capital to invest (29 per cent).

Timely return on investment is also seen as an important issue. Well over half of those surveyed (55 per cent) say they would require a return on their investment within two years, with two fifths (39 per cent) saying they would require a return within one year.

Two in three (60 per cent) small firms suggest that enhanced tax relief would encourage them to become more energy efficient but many are not aware of support already available or find it hard to navigate.

Small businesses also give their backing to energy companies providing more support on how to consume less energy. Longer energy contracts in return for improved support and advice from energy suppliers are broadly supported by nine in ten (89 per cent) of the companies questioned.

Allan adds, ‘The energy market will continue to fail small firms until it can help businesses reduce their energy consumption, as well as their underlying unit costs.

‘There are several initiatives in place to help businesses become energy efficient, including the Green Deal. But government and energy companies need to do more to understand the different circumstances and motivations of small businesses to help promote further action on energy efficiency.’

Further reading on energy buying

Making your small business environmentally friendly

If you own a small business or work as a freelancer, there are benefits to being green that go beyond simply knowing you’re doing the best by the planet.

You’re meeting the needs of consumers who want what they’re buying to be socially and environmentally responsible, and leading the way for other companies to set up more sustainable models.

And whether you’re in the hospitality industry or you’re a tradesman, there are plenty of ways to tailor your services to the burgeoning green client base.

Find ways to adapt

For instance, in recent years, more and more people have been trying to buy local produce; at the same time, more and more people are at work from nine to five, when smaller local shops are open for business.

If you own a grocer or a butcher, staying open for a couple of hours in the evening of offering a door-to-door delivery service will require organisation and some initial outlay. But you’re providing a niche service for people who want good, fresh food conveniently.

In the UK, the National Skills Academy of Environmental Technology offers ‘up-skill’ courses for tradesmen, builders and electricians who want to take courses on becoming a green deal adviser and discovering ways to apply environmental technology.

Giving just one of your staff some background and training in green tech will give you a foundation for offering greener services, and moreover a greater insight into how everything can be done more conscientiously.

Have a company ethos

Deciding to buy Fairtrade, low-packaging snacks and beverages can make a big difference when it comes to the attitudes of your staff. It’s a gesture towards establishing a company ethos that you can roll out to other areas of your business by encouraging your staff not to print out e-mails, trying to use public transport for out-of-town trips and turning off computers and equipment when you’re not in the office.

Use technology

Another way you can reduce the paper you use is by focusing on advertising online. Dropping leaflets in your local area may be a tried and tested way to drum up business, but fewer flyers in opportune spots directing people to your website will allow you to provide so much more information about yourself and what you do.

The more people who visit your website, and the more you promote yourself as a niche local business, the more you’ll crop up when people are looking for ‘carpenter/butcher/etc in…’ online – and increasingly, that’s the way most people are looking for services. It’s less paper, less outlay on printing, and more potential clients: a win-win-win for you, your business and the environment.

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.