How SMEs can benefit from the green recovery

The coronavirus pandemic has heightened people’s concerns around the climate crisis and this has brought the environmental footprint of the products and services we buy into sharp focus.

Michael Lewis, Chief Executive Officer, E.ON UK

What is the green recovery plan?

The green recovery refers to the opportunity for government, business and society to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic in a way that is environmentally and socially sustainable.

Being more sustainable will also increasingly make greater business sense. If SMEs can demonstrate they are doing everything in their power to support the green recovery, consumers are likely to reward them.

Meeting customers’ needs – which has, after all, always been the bedrock on which the sector’s success has been built – is likely to lead to a significant, material advantage for those who can demonstrate leadership towards a more sustainable economy.

We surveyed bosses across 800 small businesses to see how they viewed the opportunities offered by the green recovery

It's clear from our findings that SMEs are already sensing the changing attitudes of their customers towards the environment and understand the need to act in order to meet the raised expectations.

Such changing attitudes are prompting SMEs to take action. More than three quarters of respondents (76%) told us they believed they would have a stronger appeal to their customers if they could improve their environmental credentials. By contrast, only 7% said showing they were ‘going greener’ didn’t matter.

Where do SMEs want to focus their environmental attention? The most common subjects about which they wanted to find out more information were how to reduce overall energy consumption, increasing recycling rates and using less plastic. However, there was frustration among many at the lack of information available to them and where to find it. More than three quarters (76%) felt there wasn’t enough guidance readily available to small businesses on how to improve their environmental credentials. 

So SMEs understand the importance of following a more environmentally-friendly agenda. They’ve noticed the extent to which their customers are putting an increased emphasis in this area and they are taking steps towards meeting these demands.

But there’s concern the information they need isn’t readily available. Without that, there’s a real danger the opportunities from the green recovery may be missed. With that in mind, how can an SME find out more about the steps they need to take to become even more sustainable? 

Read our full report for more detail on how SMEs could bring about a green recovery.

We surveyed 2,000 consumers to see how sustainability influences their decision making

We surveyed more than 2,000 consumers across the UK to find out just how important protecting the environment is to them, how it influences their purchasing decisions and the extent to which they will reward the SMEs that, they feel, most match their values. 

The research shows how Covid-19 has radically changed their purchasing habits and how concerns about the environment are becoming more important in persuading them what to buy – and who to buy it from. 

Our research found this emphasis on sustainable goods and services is particularly true for SMEs in the food and drink manufacturing sector, where one in three said a company’s environmental credentials most influenced their purchasing decisions. Other areas where a strong environmental record was deemed important included retail, utilities and agriculture, but the trend of more people placing the environment on an equal footing to the price they pay can be found across much of the wider economy. 

So, our research has found that consumers are becoming more aware of the environment in their purchasing decisions. They are more likely to buy goods and services if they are sustainable and will be willing to pay more for them. They will also be more likely to recommend those businesses to other people. 

Read our full report for a more detailed breakdown of the consumer response to see how your business should react.

 

What can SMEs do?

There are a number of areas in which SMEs can meet the twin demands of keeping the business running whilst playing their role in the green recovery.

We've listed a few below, and you can read the rest by downloading our report.

  • Ensure your website and social media channels do your talking for you. Our survey showed the most important source of information about how sustainable businesses and products are is a company's own website. Check your site clearly communicates your commitment in this area and offers customers the opportunity to find out more about how you are meeting your – and their – sustainability goals. It’s also important to keep this updated so customers can access the most up-to-date information. 
  • Audit your process. It could be cutting down on single-use plastic, recycling as much as possible or going paperless. More than half of the SMEs we spoke to have already carried out an audit to check their processes. But that means a substantial number have not, meaning they are missing out on some potentially easy steps to improve their environmental footprint.
  • Listen more closely than ever to your customers, show them how you're meeting their demands. More than ever before it’s vital that SMEs talk to customers about the work being done to help sustain the green recovery

     

     

 

How we can support your green recovery

We provide eligible businesses with 100% renewable electricity1 at no extra cost when they join or renew with us. It's an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint, and could help your business become more sustainable.

Read our full report

By taking a number of relatively straightforward steps, seeking the best advice and demonstrating their business is as environmentally-supportive as possible, SMEs have the opportunity to reap the benefits from the recovery from the crisis and open a new chapter in their journey towards greater sustainability.

The legal stuff

1. SME customers that sign a contract directly with E.ON. Electricity sourced from E.ON’s renewable generation assets, supply agreements with independent UK wind generators and the purchase of renewable electricity certificates. The electricity supplied to homes and businesses comes from the National Grid and DNOs. For more information visit eonenergy.com/renewable.