Chapter 2. Barriers and Opportunities

If small businesses represent such a large opportunity for environmental savings and they can benefit financially by going green, why are they less likely to be engaged in sustainable business endeavors than their larger counterparts?

Consider the Cox Conserves Sustainability Survey published in 2015. It gauged perceptions of small and medium-sized businesses toward sustainability and the actions they have taken. In the survey, only 57 percent of companies with less than $10 million in annual revenue reported implementing environmentally conscious steps like using energy-efficient lighting and equipment or conserving supplies, compared to the 90 percent of companies with $100 million or more in annual revenue who reported doing the same. That’s a significant difference.

Small businesses are less engaged because they have been overlooked and underserved. This situation has resulted from a combination of factors. In part, small businesses have not been the focal point for external forces like environmental non-government organizations (eNGOs), analyst ratings for investors, government audits and voluntary programs, consultants, or solutions providers.

The other key factor is internal inertia. Without a sense of why these endeavors are worthwhile, how to begin taking action, what resources are required, and when they will see a return on their investment, it’s easier for a small businesses to stay the course—especially when the organization’s ...

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