According to the US Small Business Administration, small and medium-sized (SMBs) businesses collectively account for 49% of US employment. This group represents not only a large number of employers, but also a massive amount of brainpower and entrepreneurial grit.
Events such as New York’s Climate Week bring together world leaders, multinational corporations and ordinary citizens to discuss our generation’s role in combating climate change. SMBs, however, did not play a role at this important event and are often absent from sustainability discussions. Research shows that this group wants to get involved and welcomes the opportunity to learn more about sustainability. The majority even believe that corporations should be doing more to educate their suppliers on sustainability.
So what’s holding SMBs back? Many don’t have a huge margin to play around with and have an unwillingness to pay more upfront for sustainable initiatives. There’s good news for SMBs. Money is what companies save when they embrace sustainability. This is something that large corporations with sustainability programs already know and can share. There is a strong connection between SMBs knowledge of sustainability and their level of participation. Simply put: the more they know, the more they participate.
Large corporations have an opportunity to educate their SMB customers and suppliers on sustainability – both how it impacts them from an employment and financial standpoint.
Education around Employee Engagement
SMB leaders named cost savings and efficiencies as the top benefits of sustainability, but ranked employee retention and recruitment as low benefits. There is compelling data from employees that contradicts this notion and shows that sustainability makes an impact when they are choosing their employer. Individuals want to work for companies that care about the environment. It’s no longer a “nice to have.” No matter how small or large a company is, employees expect them to be sustainable.
SMBs reported monetary considerations as the biggest barrier to entry, but if you engage employees, their behavior can have a positive impact on the bottom line. Low-hanging fruit such as turning off electronics and printing double-sided can and do add up to make a difference. Sustainability has also been shown to create opportunities for engagement, collaboration and innovation.
Facts about Finance
SMBs are aspirational in wanting to do more, but the reality of today is that they have a hard time justifying investments without being able to see a big impact upfront. That’s where their partners come into the picture. Many large corporations have long-term sustainability investments and employee programs and can share how they started on the sustainability journey and the steps they took to get to the long-term investments. While a good number of SMBs have embraced low-hanging fruit, there are many others who still have the opportunity to do so.