Update – Green Denial Amongst Smaller Business

To further reinforce the small business denial / avoidance of environmental management here is further evidence. This time legislation and taxes are surveyed as incentives to improve impact:


questionlife“Small businesses are divided over how effective green taxes are at promoting good environmental practices, a new survey has revealed.

The study, ‘Business and the Environment’, was carried out on behalf of the UK200Group by Middlesex University.

Almost a half of respondents (45 per cent) said that they agreed or strongly agreed that green taxes are a good way of encouraging businesses to adopt policies protective of the environment.

A similar split occurred on the issue of environmental regulation. Some 53 per cent agreed or strongly agreed with creating additional legislation to improve the environment, while 42 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed.

Many firms, however, only have a broad idea of the existing environmental legislation as it applies to their business operations. While about half could recall the general thrust of environmental laws, only 45 per cent could name the relevant regulations.

Acting on their environmental concerns also appeared problematic for many firms.

The priority given to staff training (51 per cent) and to health and safety (46 per cent) outweighed reducing energy costs (a priority for 28 per cent of the firms polled) and cutting waste (21 per cent).

Asked whether they had green policies in place setting out their environmental aims and procedures, almost six out of ten (58 per cent) reported that they did not.”


Ok, hitting peoples wallets, or company finances is one way to reduce environmental impact, and yes, the other half will always shout vociferously about additional red tape and administrative burden,  but any successful approach has to be carrot AND stick.

For me the heart of the problem lies in the question. If you ask an entrepreneur about the risks of environmental legislation you can guarantee a defensive response. The question (and therefore prompt) should be about environmental opportunities, i.e. how can your business tap into emerging green markets, can your product be a example of low carbon good practice, how can you exploit your environmental credentials to improve your brand position, etc.?

As I said in the initial post, entrepreneurs are by their nature immensely creative types, so why isn’t more effort centred on using this wealth of talent? Yet another example of the clash of cultures between private and public sectors.

4 thoughts on “Update – Green Denial Amongst Smaller Business

  1. Carolne

    Hi David,
    Thanks for the post. I definately agree with you. It makes more sense for the planet and the business to focus on opportunities rather than taxes …
    I am from France. A year and a half ago big initiatives were launched from the government in order to go towards “more green”. Today the debate is only about how much taxes and who should pay them …
    Very disapointing.


    1. davidcoethica Post author

      Hi Caroline,

      Legislation has a important role to play and I’m unashamedly for more of efficient mandatory regulation but it has to be combined with a motivational and opportunity themed campaign.

      At the smaller end of the business market it is more about the individual personality running the company, with the majority of these being intensely committed, innovative and well used to risk taking. Unfortunately most public sector interventions are based on ticking legislative boxes or delivered by dinosaurs without the depth of knowledge or charisma to effectively engage with entrepreneurs.



    1. davidcoethica Post author

      Hi Shane

      Taxes although effective in certain situations can also provide strong disincentives or push people toward tax avoidance rather than tackling the core issue. We forget that businesses are run by people. Some people need a kick up the backside (taxes) and some need persusasion and support. A successful approach must have flexibility to cater for both extremes and everything in between (and there are many shades of grey!).

      Some countries are already pushing the legislation angle including Denmark, France and even the UK all forcing additional social and environmental accountability to varying degrees. I can CSR reporting of some shape or form becoming further integrated into formal annual reporting mechanisms globally over the next ten years. It will happen slowly but it will happen.

      Not enough support has been allocated to stimulating CSR innovation in existing businesses, especially at SME level. All the focus appears to be on corporates at one end and social enterprises at the other. There are literally millions of businesses globally that are being ignored.

      Ok rant over – I should go and get some sleep! 😉




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