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A new report from Rimm Sustainability reveals an impressive level of commitment to sustainability practices amongst UK SMEs.

The report, “Leading the Charge on Sustainability: Moving from Awareness to Action” canvasses the views of 500 C-suite executives from SMEs from a range of industries across the UK, and explores the level of awareness, commitment and action taken by leaders to embed sustainability into their businesses.

It also highlights the key challenges encountered by SMEs in their sustainability journey and identifies where support is most needed.

The report highlights a strong understanding amongst SME executives on the value that sustainability can bring to their business. 58% recognise that it can help them to meet the evolving needs of stakeholders and 41% believe it can help attract investors. As a result, 80% of the SMEs surveyed said their organisation is committed to sustainability.

To monitor their progress, four in five SMEs are now participating in sustainability reporting. Key aspects of focus in these reports include sustainability targets (70%), carbon footprint (54%) and compliance with international reporting standards (51%).

Communicating progress is becoming an increasing priority both internally and externally. 62% communicate their organisation’s commitment to sustainability internally, and more than 50% of SMEs have already begun reporting their sustainability commitments externally with stakeholders.

To support them on their journey, more than three-quarters of SMEs (77%) are using technology as well as a sustainability platform to facilitate their goals, and they are confident in their efforts to date. Business leaders believe that their organisations are performing strongly in the following areas: employee engagement and satisfaction (79%), environmental metrics (76%), environmental management of the supply chain (76%) and sustainable business practices (75%).

The findings show that while the majority of UK SMEs appreciate the value of sustainability, challenges still remain. The top three cited pain points include understanding what to report (36%), verifying data (35%) and high prices for most sustainability services (34%).

The challenges differ for those who are committed to sustainability and firms who are still yet to. 39% of SMEs committed to sustainability say that the risk of operational disruption is a concern, closely followed by the risk of making a loss (37%). By comparison, SMEs who are not committed to sustainability cite not having the right manpower (29%) and not having the right talent (23%) as their biggest hurdles.

Ravi Chidambaram (pictured), CEO and Founder of Rimm Sustainability, commented: “SMEs have traditionally been viewed as laggards when it comes to sustainability initiatives given their limited resources and competing priorities. However, in recent years we have witnessed a shift in attitudes with widespread recognition of the importance of sustainability amongst the UK’s SMEs. This is beneficial to all stakeholders in the value chain, including large corporations, as SMEs are usually present within their own value chains and their non-financial performance could make or break the sustainability metrics of larger corporations.”

“Our report makes clear where more support is needed. The overarching theme is that the barriers to entry for SMEs to operate sustainably at all levels of their organisation need to be lowered. Easy and affordable access to education, guidance and clear reporting standards are all logical next steps to make sustainable operations and reporting achievable for all businesses operating across the UK.”

To download the report for free, click here.

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