SMEs Plan to Ramp Up Staff Training in Energy Efficiency
Boosting staff skills in sustainability is set to increase among UK SMEs, with energy efficiency by far the most popular specialism businesses are interested in. This is followed by training in government regulation and sustainable supply chains.
Over half of SMEs (53%) have either started training staff in energy efficiency or plan to do so in the next year, which places the issue at the top of the table for sustainability skills. SME manufacturers (66%) were more likely than service providers (50%), to report training staff in energy efficiency.
Andrew Harrison, Head of Business Banking at NatWest Group, said:
“Energy costs are a huge issue for businesses, as well as households, and it’s clear that SMEs are prioritising skills that will help them establish more energy efficient practices and help futureproof their business across energy price volatility in the long term. It’s great news for companies, employees and the environment that businesses are becoming more committed to boosting green skills.
“NatWest’s Springboard to Sustainability report found that 50% of the UK’s carbon reduction ambition can be delivered by the SME sector. This could also provide them with a £160 billion opportunity. Sustainability, recovery, and growth are all tied together, and small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) need help to figure out how to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead. At NatWest, we are doing our best to support them.”
Businesses said that rising utility bills made it more important to save energy, so they trained their employees to help them use less. There were also rumours that staff training was meant to help them design new products that use less energy.
Large companies also said that energy efficiency was the most wanted skill, with 78% of them looking to get training in this area. Next came sustainable supply chains, with 65% of them looking to get training in this area.
Overall, worries about the business outlook contributed to a fall in the prioritisation of sustainability action among UK firms with 1–249 employees. The headline NatWest Sustainability PMI dropped from 43% in June to 39% in September, which signalled the lowest priority since the survey began in February 2020. The drop was caused by service providers while manufacturing companies' plans got a little bit better in September.
However, sustainable product launches have picked up since June, with 25% of UK SMEs reporting this as a high priority during the year ahead (up from 19%). Sustainability in the supply chain was not changed, and 30% of SMEs still said this was a high priority.
In contrast to what was happening with SMEs, large companies improved their plans for using low-carbon energy. Some 76% of large firms cited this as a high priority, up from 73% in June and a survey-record high.
Source: NatWest Group