A majority of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) want better sustainability programs but are hindered by costs and a perception that investments in these initiatives don’t matter to customers, according to a sustainability survey released today by Cox Enterprises. The Cox Conserves Sustainability Survey is the first nationwide survey to examine sustainability opportunities and challenges for SMB leaders.
The majority of SMBs (52 percent) are not satisfied with current levels of sustainability, and even more (65 percent) reported that they are committed to increasing eco-friendly activities.
- Nearly two-thirds (60 percent) of respondents identified cost reduction and company values as the top factors driving investment in sustainability.
- Monetary considerations are both the largest adoption driver (reducing costs, 60 percent) and barrier of entry (unwillingness to pay additional costs, 64 percent) for sustainable business practices.
- SMBs with the largest revenues ($100M+) are far more likely to participate in sustainability activities than businesses earning less than $10M (85 percent and 57 percent, respectively).
- SMBs within certain regions of the United States are more likely to participate in sustainable activities than others – the Pacific region leads the way with 67 percent participation, while the Atlantic region lags at 59 percent.
- An SMB’s time in business correlates to participation in sustainability activities: SMBs with 10+ years of business are more likely to have an established sustainability program than those launched in the last five years (63 percent to 52 percent).
“This research reveals that SMBs welcome the opportunity to learn more about sustainability and are committed to increasing eco-friendly practices,” said Cox Enterprises Executive Vice President Alex Taylor. “As a company with hundreds of thousands of SMB customers and suppliers, this audience is extremely important to our business. There is compelling data that education can move the needle on sustainability. For example, if companies cite prohibitive costs and low customer demand as barriers to sustainability – we have to do a better job explaining return on investment and the rise of the responsible consumer.”
Sustainability Among Women-Led SMBs
Oct. is National Women’s Small Business Month, proving the survey data to be timely. The results show that women-led SMBs currently embrace sustainability more than those led by men. Seventy percent of women are committed to increasing sustainable business activities and are more likely to offer recycling programs, material efficiency initiatives and telecommuting options, compared to 62 percent of men. Women-led SMBs also claim a more positive outlook on future initiatives, suggesting that continued promotion of women to businesses’ top offices can help support forward-looking sustainability leadership.
To help further sustainability among women-owned SMBs, Cox Enterprises will donate one dollar to the Greater Women’s Business Council for every person that tweets #CoxConservesSMB through Nov. 30 (up to $10,000).
The 2014 survey builds upon Cox Enterprises’ larger national sustainability commitment. Cox Conserves focuses on reducing waste and energy consumption, conserving water and encouraging employees to engage in eco-friendly practices. The data gathered from the survey will help to inform the Cox Conserves Supplier Sustainability Program, an initiative that involves outreach and knowledge sharing among the company’s SMB suppliers.
Contact Steve O’Day for advice and assistance regarding sustainability in your business.