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Helping small businesses to be sustainable can make a huge difference to the environment, says ACCA


16 Jan 2013


Euro & Finance
EU Priorities 2020
Climate & Environment

Policy makers, regulators and finance professionals must help small businesses adopt sustainable business practices – since their huge environmental impact is currently being overlooked, says ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants).


Despite representing more than 90% of global businesses and accounting, on average, for 50% of gross domestic product and 63% of employment with a significant impact on industrial pollution, SMEs have been marginalised in the debate about sustainable business practices and have been slow to adopt environment-related improvements.


For instance in the EU, only 29% of SMEs have introduced measures to save energy or raw materials (compared with 46% of large enterprises) and only 4% have a comprehensive energy efficiency system.


In its new policy paper Embedding Sustainability in SMEs,  ACCA’s Global Forum for SMEs has called on a number of groups to take action to help smaller businesses to  enable them to become more efficient and environmentally friendly.


A series of SME-specific measures and approaches will need to be adopted, if these efforts are to gain any significant momentum –with policy makers taking into account not only the differences between large companies and SMEs, but also the differences between micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, says the report.



As many small businesses are run by owner-managers – with no shareholders or boards to answer to – they have more freedom to implement sustainability practices – or to ignore them. This is why it is important that governments and business-support professionals ensure that SMEs are aware of the quick gains they can make through increased efficiency and of the grants, financial assistance and incentives that may be available for those which commit to cutting emissions or which reduce waste.


This includes conditions that are set so that only businesses with sustainable practices have access to large and potentially lucrative public sector supply chains. While small business owners need to become more proactive and strategic when it comes to adopting sustainable business practices,  regulators also need to ensure that they ‘think small first’ when it comes to developing regulations which are aimed at encouraging such practices, such as sustainability reporting.


The paper sets out a number of challenges for groups involved.


SMEs need to follow five steps to sustainability reporting, which are to committing the business publicly to taking action; assessing the business’ impact; setting targets for reducing impact; acting to reduce impact and publishing the business’ policies and actions.


Accountants are urged to work with local environmental-sustainability experts in order to gain local access to credible knowledge; to review the environmental sustainability of their own business,  then use that valuable experience to have rounded, relevant conversations, based on genuine experience, with their clients.


The paper says that accountancy bodies are urged to become more proactive in the SME sustainability debate, providing members with the right tools and resources to help them develop in this direction.



Mark Gold, chairman of ACCA’s Global Forum for SMEs said: “All too often, small business is overlooked when it comes to environmental and sustainability issues. But in terms of economic activity, employment and waste, small businesses make a huge impact and it is critical that they and those who advise and regulate them, recognise this and begin to take steps to tackle waste, promote efficiency and ensure that  sustainability is at the forefront of their thinking.”



To access the full report click on the attached link




For more information, please contact:

Colin Davis, ACCA Newsroom

+ 44 (0) 207 059 5738

+44 (0) 7720 347713


 Notes to Editors

1.    ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. We aim to offer business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.

2.    We support our 154,000 members and 432,000 students in 170 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. We work through a network of over 80 offices and centres and more than 8,400 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through our public interest remit, we promote appropriate regulation of accounting and conduct relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.

3.    Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. We believe that accountants bring value to economies in all stages of development and seek to develop capacity in the profession and encourage the adoption of global standards. Our values are aligned to the needs of employers in all sectors and we ensure that through our qualifications, we prepare accountants for business. We seek to open up the profession to people of all backgrounds and remove artificial barriers, innovating our qualifications and delivery to meet the diverse needs of trainee professionals and their employers.