Beneficial to integrate sustainability into SMEs’ core business strategy

March 29th, 2013 by HW Fisher & Company

(click image to expand - ©RLLord)

SMEs are a vital part of the value chain where there is a growing demand for sustainability management both from customers and suppliers (click image to expand – ©RLLord)

These days, the word ‘sustainability’ is ubiquitous, appearing on corporate agendas, in government policy and across current affairs.

Despite this, it is a term that is still often fundamentally misunderstood and therefore often avoided as a concept.

Sustainability is coming to everyday business and mainstream accountancy. It is to be embraced and not feared.

Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) might consider sustainability a topic for large corporations, but as SMEs account for over 98% of all business in the developed world then collectively they could effect a greater impact than multinationals.

SMEs are also a vital part of the value chain where there is a growing demand for sustainability management both from customers and suppliers, especially for those businesses who seek to compete for contracts with government or corporations.

The physical environment is undergoing tremendous change, which is leading to an increasing demand for finite resources, which is eventually going to impact all businesses.

That said, is it understandable why SMEs are not racing to embrace sustainability?

Government and media sends mixed messages. Sustainability has dropped down their list of priorities.

Essentially the message businesses receive is that in the midst of a recession society should not burden businesses with improving their environmental performance.

At present the UK’s Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) and Energy Efficiency Scheme (EES) only focuses on the largest UK companies in the private and public sector. They are not familiar to most SME directors.

This goes some way to explain why, with only a handful of exceptions, it is only the largest accountancy firms that offer sustainability services to their clients as smaller firms feel there is too much risk to offer a service that their clients are not required to have.

Despite the fact that sustainability can sound like yet another headache, and another cost at a time when the UK economy has just gone back into recession since HW Fisher & Company launched its sustainability service the accountancy firm has found quite the opposite.

Far from being a burden, integrating sustainability into the core business strategy and reporting on emissions saves money, reduces risk, and provides new opportunities.

Close-up of Protea flower named after the Greek god Proteus (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Close-up of Protea flower named after the Greek god Proteus who can foretell the future and the adjective ‘protean’ is derived from (click image to expand – ©RLLord)

Often in our discussions, clients say that they understand the need for change and that they are interested in environmental and social issues – but from a practical point of view they have not got a clue where to start.

This is where a carbon audit is helpful as it enables an organisation to establish a baseline in terms of how much energy is being used, what that energy costs, and what the carbon emissions are that are associated with that consumption.

This is often as far as many organisations go, but really, it should only be the first step.

Measuring is not enough. The carbon audit should be used in such a way that it leads to increased efficiency in practise.

This can be achieved by a continual process of measuring, monitoring and review, and by exploring opportunities for energy efficiency and generation.

Coupled with this is the all-important realm of behaviour change, training and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to support integrating sustainability throughout the organisation.

It is not a decisions between being sustainable or profitable, sustainable business is just about business common sense.

For the majority of HW Fisher & Company clients sustainability reporting is not mandatory but bespoke sustainability strategies enable them to manage and reduce their operating costs and impact on the environment whilst minimising risk of exposure to negative PR.

Launching a sustainability service line is something that can add value to all accountancy firms.

For HW Fisher & Company us it has been about improving business opportunities and creating efficiencies, identifying the risks to cash flow that social, economic and environmental change will present and ensuring that they take advantage of the cost reductions, minimise the inevitable cost increases and maximise the potential revenue.

Ultimately this has helped us to add value to the service HW Fisher & Company offers to its clients and helps both the company’s clients and the company improve the way it runs its business.


Written by Louisa Harris, Sustainability Business Development Manager, HW Fisher & Company.


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