Sustainability has fast become a standard expectation for businesses rather than a ‘nice to have’, and this growth of importance shows no signs of slowing, and actually signs of increasing amidst the Covid-19 “green” recovery plan.

While beginning to think about recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, many small businesses are understandably struggling. But the world’s most senior economists suggest that a green recovery is better for businesses, the economy, as well as, of course, the environment. The pandemic, while having tragically high economic and human cost, has also had a positive short-term climate impact, with the IEA predicting an 8% drop in carbon emission this year.

The UK government is facing mounting pressure on all fronts to deliver a ‘green’ coronavirus recovery plan – the pandemic has exposed the urgent need to build resilience to climate change, illustrated by the impacts of Covid-19 on the economy and society, where we have no choice but to take drastic, fast action. This will be a driver towards fast change on climate action. A high level of government spending is therefore likely to go towards a ‘green’ recovery, as well as consumer behaviour changing towards more sustainable approaches. In order to thrive during a transition to a low-carbon economy, businesses need to get on board with a green and sustainable recovery, to avoid being left behind.

Smaller businesses face challenges when implementing sustainability

It is clear that in order to recover from the pandemic, businesses will need to embrace a green recovery. Recognising the importance of sustainability to a business is one thing but embedding it into the day to day operations can be challenging for smaller businesses. Major corporations have the luxury of in-house sustainability teams. On the contrary, smaller businesses don’t have the same privilege and often face financial and time constraints, as well as limited access to sustainability know-how.

Some major barriers that SME’s come across when implementing sustainability include:

  • Money: At all levels, among the most important aspects of businesses in assessing potential investments are the upfront cost and return on investment. If it is not considered directly business-related, it will inevitably slip down on the business agenda.
  • Time: In a dog eat dog world, many business owners cannot afford to set aside the required time to implement such practices into their operations.
  • Sustainability know-how: Simply understanding which actions to take and where to focus attention is a significant stumbling block that many businesses face.

How can my business keep up with the green recovery?

Despite these challenges, SMEs should view sustainability not as a burden, but an opportunity to better promote their business. By getting on board with a green recovery and implementing business sustainability, SMEs will be able to lower their running costs, reduce resource consumption, and stand out from their competitors. Sustainability and climate impact are in the spotlight, consumer behaviour is changing towards environmentally-friendly products and services, and customers will be voting with their wallets.

There are many opportunities for which SME’s can embrace sustainability and improve their environmental impact. From nominating a workplace ‘green champion’, to investing in energy efficient LED lighting, to engaging with your community on waste management, to redesigning your product for reusability, and everything in between. With so many potential options and actions available, across varied sustainability topics, many small businesses don’t know where to start. However, as a business owner, you don’t necessarily require sustainability specialists at every step of the process.

A great start for a small business beginning a journey towards sustainability and business growth, is to consider a sustainability certification. A certification gives your business a step by step process for environmental and sustainability action, following a defined framework that allows you to measure your progress and demonstrate your commitment and achievements. A sustainability certification gives you all of the sustainability know-how to become a sustainability business, without the masses of time and money required for a larger environmental standard such as ISO 14001.

Small business sustainability certification

Conventional wisdom suggests that for SMEs, the associated costs outweigh the benefits. Our new Smart Sustainability certification, transcends this outlook by breaking down the barriers faced by SMEs. In doing so, it equips small businesses with the simple and practical tools to become a more sustainable organisation.

We have supported over 1,500 SMEs with environmental certification for more than 10 years, providing a simple, affordable and efficient way to quantify, understand and reduce their environmental impacts, manage energy costs and communicate positive action and achievements to their stakeholders.  Our aim is to make sustainability action and certification more accessible to smaller businesses – at a lower cost than international standards.

During our work with SMEs, we have found the following to be the main drivers and benefits of pursuing a sustainability certification:

  • Driving operational efficiency. The certification process identifies significant areas for improvement, which often drives efficiency, resource and cost savings.
  • Meeting tender requirements. SMEs have reported winning increased work through tenders by holding a carbon certification.
  • Standing up to competitors. In a competitive market, SMEs are increasingly expected to demonstrate their business as responsible to its customers.
  • Legitimising existing efforts. Many SMEs are already taking a certain level of sustainable action but have no statement of achievement to demonstrate this to stakeholders.
  • Process provides direction on action. SMEs are often time- and resource-constrained. Certification provides a framework for tangible action and measurement.


Sustainability is achievable, and your business can also become a part of this change.

All that is required from you is the ambition to become a sustainable business. This will help you to improve business performance, enhance your reputation and demonstrate responsibility to stakeholders. Being green, it seems, does pay off.

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more than a word.

We get that change is not easy. But we must be brave, challenge old ways, set new habits, embrace new thinking.