SMEs and Sustainable Development Goals: Let’s explore some simple techniques that will ensure SMEs can contribute to sustainable development
By Veronica Jones
It’s no longer possible for responsible businesses to pretend that sustainability is a niche concern. With global warming reaching the point of no return and increased pressure from consumers around ethical business practices, companies are starting to look for changes that they can make.
It’s important to note that sustainable development does focus on the environment, but it also looks at problems like social responsibility. Ultimately, it’s about finding better and fairer ways of doing things.
Whilst small and medium enterprises might not have the same budget for tackling these problems as larger corporations, it’s not all about big charitable donations and running the office on solar. There are plenty of changes that SMEs can make which, if every business followed suit on, would make a huge difference.
Introduction to SMEs and Sustainable Development Goals
As well as being beneficial for the planet and your people, making these changes won’t harm your profits, either. From tax relief to making your company more attractive to new customers and investors, committing to a sustainable approach pays for itself. Here, we take a look at three ways that SMEs can get started.
Three Ways SMEs Can Contribute To Sustainable Development:
- Make sustainable, choose sustainable
- Consider a remote-first approach
- Don’t forget your social responsibility
Make sustainable, choose sustainable
What you can do here will depend on what your business offers, with some changes being easier than others. But sitting down and really looking at the materials you’re using and understanding where they come from is a great first step when it comes to sustainability. Could you source local products? Do you understand the sustainability credentials of the manufacturers of any parts that you are buying in? By choosing quality raw materials to create your products, you’re committing to an overall cycle of sustainability.
If you are a company that works with other suppliers to offer a service, do you understand their approach towards sustainable development? Can you share knowledge between you so that your overall customer offering is the best that it can be? If you need to choose a new supplier and you have several options, try to also ask about their eco-efforts as well as their ethics and factor this into consideration. Whilst they might be a little more expensive, it’s still worth considering, as at least you’ll know that your money and your customers’ money is in good hands.
Consider a remote-first approach
If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that some of us can work just as efficiently at home. Whilst arguably there is a time and place for in-person collaboration, remote working can offer many benefits, one of which is the reduction in the carbon footprint that comes with running an office.
Whilst there is of course then a rise in the carbon footprint of your employee’s homes, they’re more likely to just be heating and lighting one space, rather than a big open office. Depending on your dress code, they’ll also be able to adjust their clothing to be temperature comfortable. This can be a problem in an office environment, as the standard method of calculating how warm an office should be is based on the requirements of a 40 year old, 70kg man.
Everyone who doesn’t fit that description is therefore likely to be sweating or freezing, leading to an ongoing battle where the thermostat is constantly adjusted during the day. This will leave your heating system constantly working to adjust, thus creating a fluctuating energy output. In contrast, at home, employees are likely to already have the heating set to a comfortable temperature for them, and so the energy output is more consistent.
Don’t forget your social responsibility
Is your business best considering the needs of its staff and the effect that the company has on the local community? No matter the size of your business, it’s important to make sure everything is well-run from the get-go. The aim should always be to enhance the world around you, rather than take away from it.
For internal social responsibility, start by checking how your employees are treated. Are their working conditions fair? Are you creating policies that will actively help them? Are you acknowledging that they have a life outside of work, and so supporting them with a good work-life balance?
In addition to this, how can you best help the community around you? Whether you choose local suppliers or perhaps do some free-of-charge work for local charities, it’s important to leave the world a little better than you found it.