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Small Business Sustainability: Insights & Implications

Small Businesses have a big role to play in achieving sustainability goals. In this report from Oxford Brookes Business School in partnership with Small Business Britain, we discuss findings related to small businesses’ awareness, engagement and action towards reaching the UK Governments goal to be Net Zero by 2050.

From this research we can see the complexity of becoming more sustainable as small businesses struggle with completing challenges in their operations. However, there are strong indications that small businesses are already taking action, and that they want to do more. Key insights include:

  • A large proportion of small businesses are progressing with some form of sustainability activity, including optimising energy consumption and increasing recycling (56%) and reducing use of plastic packaging (53%).
  • 69% of businesses were actively lowering their carbon emissions, where 23% said they were fully active in doing so and actively investing in reducing emissions and a further 46% said they are taking some action but could do more.
  • 71% of respondents said it was either ‘likely’ (43%) or ‘very likely’ (28%) that they would do more to reduce carbon emissions in the next two years
  • 42% of small businesses are aware of the Government’s Net Zero agenda and 12% are not aware of it, suggesting there is scope to do more to reach small business to engage them in this aspect of sustainability.

The report includes recommendations for small businesses, business support practitioners, big business and government on next steps.

This report has been written by Dr Sara Le Roux, Dr Lauren Tuckerman and Professor Tim Vorley of Oxford Brookes Business School with data from research by Small Business Britain.

If you would like to get involved and discuss further the implications for small businesses, policy and the UK as a whole, please do get in touch at [email protected] with the topic OBBS Sustainability Research

I do not think you can have a conversation about small business in 2022 without talking about sustainability.This conversation is only going to get bigger and more critical.The challenge of climate change looms so large, and the actions taken are so far off what is ultimately needed, this is going to increasingly be the focus for all business as we continue through 2023 into the next decade and beyond.

This is why Small Business Britain now puts sustainability at the heart of what it does, and why the Sustainability Basics programme in partnership with Oxford Brookes Business School has been so important. Getting over 1,300 businesses (so far) on the way to better understanding, better engagement and greater action in sustainability is not just important, it is existential.

The insight from the survey and programme participants, highlighted in this report, has been both eye-opening and encouraging for me. Businesses are far more engaged than you would believe from headline statistics or reading news headlines. Small businesses do a lot, often in an unstructured way. But they are incredibly well-meaning and the passion to do the right thing and create a better world is alive and kicking in the huge variety of businesses operating in the UK.

Michelle Ovens CBE, Founder, Small Business Britain
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In partnership with Oxford Brookes Business School

Oxford Brookes Business School