Top 5 Sustainability Challenges for SMEs

Published on:
by Zara Ali
Thoughtful small business

Sustainable development is a goal shared by many modern business owners. They're striving to be an example of environmentally responsible corporate practices. That it will benefit their bottom line is evident to them. Their clientele could even insist on it. Workers frequently ask for it. Still, this isn't always the case. The substantial long-term sustainability difficulties that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) encounter may prevent many companies from going green. 

What exactly are these obstacles, and how may they be overcome?  We summarise the most significant difficulties in this article.

The question “What is the biggest myth small company owners have about making their enterprise more sustainable?” arises frequently. 

Myths Manifested By Small Business Owners

One common misunderstanding is that SMEs are incapable of handling things independently. That they should either recruit someone to work in-house whose exclusive concentration is sustainability, or engage a dedicated sustainability consultant. That is absolutely not the case. 

Small-business owners and administrators need only arm themselves with information, a sustainability plan template, and the assistance of their own staff, many of whom are eager to contribute in ways beyond the scope of their current responsibilities. Consider joining a group if you're a business owner or executive who needs some guidance getting started. You can get the help and digital resources you require from them.

Top 5 Sustainability Challenges for Small Companies or SMEs

However, it takes time and money for a company to become sustainable. There are indeed obstacles to enacting a sustainability policy, but these may be overcome with the correct strategy, tactics, and attitude. Here are the top five sustainability issues we perceive: 

  • Limited Funding

  • Time Constraints

  • Unwillingness of Employees

  • Priorities Imbalance

  • Greenwashing

Limited Funding

"I desire to be sustainable, but I don't have the funds" is unquestionably the most commonly cited statement as a barrier to being environmentally friendly. 

It doesn't take much of a financial hit to become green. Becoming green may help you save money since it forces you to be more efficient, use less energy, and produce less garbage than you would otherwise. You may ease into larger initiatives like turning electric, utilising green energy, improving your building, adopting solar, and using electric vehicles by beginning with smaller ones like recycling, reducing plastics, energy-efficient lighting, and more efficient equipment. 

You may qualify for financial aid in the form of tax credits or grants in some jurisdictions. Free or low-cost "green" goods and services, such as LED bulbs, may be accessible at the local governmental level as incentives for SME sustainability. 

The cost of employing a professional has been cited as an excuse, we frequently hear. Bringing in an extra person is unnecessary. You may find a wealth of useful information on the internet. Indeed, when you join a sustainability group, you have access to resources that feature helpful guidance and advice. Your present workforce may well be trained in a short time and put to use more effectively in driving the initiative. Avoid using money as an excuse.

Featured Article: SDGs for SMEs - The Importance of UN Goals for your Business

Time Constraints

This is another recurring complaint from small businesses. 

Making an effort to reduce your environmental impact need not take up all of your spare time. However, even if you can commit a few hours on average, you may have a significant impact by taking up environmentally friendly practices. To reduce plastic use, make different purchase selections. Changing energy providers or enrolling in a green energy initiative or offering might be all it takes to make the switch to renewable power. 

This isn't a voyage that you're on alone. It includes all of your workers and the company itself. As a result, divide the task. This leads us to the third obstacle. A negative reaction from the workforce.

Unwillingness of Employees

The resistance from workers is the third most frequent issue raised by small enterprises. The refrain, "I don't want to impose extra stress on my people" is one we frequently hear from owners. 

If you don't want to add extra stress or work for your staff, we can understand that. Green initiatives are rarely seen as ‘work’ by most staff. In reality, most workers view environmental protection initiatives as a welcome diversion from their regular duties and an opportunity to positively contribute to the world around them. Employees are more likely to encourage their employers to take greater responsibility for the environment and the community. 

Implementing green operations and achieving sustainability may boost morale and help organisations thrive. It's a great chance to get people involved. In an effort to inject some friendly competition into their sustainability initiatives, many businesses maintain an EcoScorecard or record their annual carbon footprint. 

The sustainability initiative may also be used as a platform to highlight workers' noteworthy achievements and thank them for their efforts.

Priorities Imbalance

The fourth most frequent worry of smaller companies is "Where do I start?", which is a question about setting priorities. Just how much work am I taking on? What's the best way for me to improve the world while also boosting my company's profits? 

Joining a green business association or consulting internet resources might be useful in this respect. Many resources are available, including how-to manuals, survival strategies, courses, sustainability events, and long-term plans. Listed below are some suggestions: 

Make sure your company has a brief green goal statement. If you're not working as a solo owner, it's time to assemble your green team. Start by looking over a Getting Started Guide; there are hundreds of easy, low-hanging fruit actions you can take right now to green your company's day-to-day operations, office space, travel, and energy usage. 

It turns out there are a multitude of simple tasks you can undertake that won't cost anything but will have a significant impact. The Green Business Bureau coordinates eco plans and other green efforts based on their difficulty level, expense, and potential benefit. Because of this, identifying the low-hanging fruit is a breeze.

Featured Article: Top 5 Social Sustainability Examples You Need To Know


 "Customers don't trust me, or even worse, workers don't trust me," is a frequent complaint from small business owners concerning the endorsement of green practices. If you are greenwashing and making untrue sustainability claims about your business practices then it is definitely going to be a problem. Greenwashing refers to dishonestly downplaying or outright lying about environmental efforts. 

We must put words into action and genuinely try to reduce our environmental impact. Still, it's a good idea to get an impartial third to verify your claims of success. 

Inclusion in certified programmes, for instance, can boost your claims. Their endorsement will provide you with the legitimacy and rewards you deserve.

Featured Article: What Are The Main Greenwashing Tactics Companies Use?

Going Green

"Today, you need to be environmentally conscious to have a successful business." 

In business, going green is a no-brainer. Rally the troops, and let them take the wheel. It is not just the duty of multinational enterprises to protect the environment and combat climate change. Millions of independent companies could make a significant impact if they band together. They have the potential to make the corporate sector greener, ecological, and socially conscious.

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