Small firms see obstacles to going green

Small businesses think that environment-friendly policies can help improve profitability but also believe that tax and regulations are hindering them in their efforts to go green.

Those were the findings of a survey by the Forum of Private Business (FPB).

In the poll, just 10 per cent of respondents admitted to having done nothing to cut utility bills, while 41 pr cent have streamlined business processes, 28 per cent have reduced energy usage and the same proportion have embraced more energy efficient equipment.

Although 77 per cent of business owners disagreed that being green is impossible in the present economic climate, over a half (52 per cent) argued that green taxes inhibit their ability to invest in reducing energy use and three-quarters said that environmental legislation focuses on the needs of larger businesses rather than small firms.

In all, 52 per cent of the small businesses questioned believe they cannot become more environmentally friendly until they are able to be more profitable.

Phil Orford, the FPB’s chief executive, commented: “Small businesses see the benefits of green practices and technologies to the environment and, given rising energy costs, to their bottom lines. They are clearly taking steps towards introducing them but the lack of adequate support from the Government and utilities providers is frustrating.

“We need better information about the choice of support and equipment that is available, and incentives to help business owners embrace environmental processes and trade more sustainably locally, regionally and internationally, rather than ever more taxation. Small businesses should be at the forefront of thinking about the green agenda.”

The FPB wants the Government to take a series of measures to help encourage smaller enterprises to embrace green policies.

It should ensure that regulations are simple, proportional and clear to give business owners the greatest opportunity to understand and, where appropriate, implement government policy.

The green agenda should carry obvious business benefits so that environmental taxes can be seen as more than a revenue raising exercise.

The business case for energy efficient technology should be made clearer and better information on the choices available should be provided.

More support should be offered those firms that adopt green measures early, such as rewards for large-scale property improvements in the form of tax relief and soft loans.

And more emphasis needs to be placed on local schemes, forging closer links between small firms and the communities in which they operate. This might involve allowing retailers to use Energy Performance Certification to show off their green credentials.