Sustainable business practices for SMEs in 2023

By Damian Hanson, below, Co-Founder & Director, CircleLoop

SMEs play a vital role in the global economy, representing about 90% of businesses and more than 50% of employment worldwide, according to the World Bank Group. However, to stay competitive and resilient, SMEs must adapt to include sustainable practices in their operations. The growing threat of climate change and other environmental concerns has triggered calls for businesses to do more in this space from across their stakeholder groups that can no longer be ignored.

From consumers, investors and regulators, there’s been considerable pressure on SMEs to prioritise sustainability in 2023 to safeguard the environment. No matter the size of the business, adopting sustainability and incorporating it into future plans is imperative.

How SMEs are currently approaching sustainability

Data from Time Finance has shown that half of UK SMEs anticipate investing in sustainability in 2023 as pressure mounts for businesses to cut their carbon emissions in line with the Government’s 2050 Net Zero targets. More and more we are seeing SMEs recognise the benefits of adopting sustainable practices.

SMEs can monitor their efforts and make sure they are progressing towards becoming a green business at every level by setting sustainability goals and tracking progress. Some well-known environmental organisations can also help businesses to find ways of cutting energy use or enhancing recycling procedures.

By sharing your efforts with customers and other stakeholders, you can ensure that your company is held accountable for its environmental commitments and increase brand trust.

New technology also plays a pivotal role in business sustainability. Innovative solutions are emerging all the time that are greener and leaner and can help SMEs find eco-friendly solutions to help reduce their carbon footprint or optimise energy usage.

Leveraging technology for sustainable business practices

Technology can play a significant role in helping SMEs become more sustainable. Here are some ways that it can help from my experience:

  1. Remote work can contribute to lower emissions

Technology enables remote work, which could reduce the need for employees to commute to an office. This not only reduces transportation-related emissions but could also offer cost savings for SMEs by reducing the need for office space.

2. Utilising scalable technology that can increase or decrease performance

Technology is highly scalable, meaning businesses can adjust their usage as their needs change. This helps prevent over-provisioning, reducing waste and energy consumption associated with unnecessary hardware or software.

3. Minimising paper usage using cloud-based tools

Cloud-based software can help businesses reduce paper usage by providing a digital alternative to traditional paperwork. Using online tools for document management, storage and collaboration, SMEs can significantly reduce their paper consumption and associated waste while promoting a clutter-free environment.

4. Hosting on the cloud is more environmentally friendly

Cloud-based tools and services are often more energy-efficient than traditional software and hardware. Remote servers can be optimised for energy efficiency, resulting in lower energy consumption and carbon emissions. You can also recycle any old hardware that may no longer be in use. By leveraging technology in these ways, SMEs can become more sustainable, reducing their environmental impact, and improving their bottom line.

Progressing ahead…

In 2023 and beyond, SMEs will increasingly be held responsible for the sustainability of their entire supply chain. To stand a chance of flourishing in an environment that is continuously evolving, ESG commitments need to be authentic and able to stand up against scrutiny.

Using new, greener technology is a great first step on your journey of sustainability and the best part is, your bottom line and reputation will reap the rewards if done well, giving you a greater competitive advantage in the years ahead.