Digital Boosts Small Business Sustainability

Digital helps almost half (47%) of small firms become more sustainable during the global pandemic.


The Rise of Small Businesses Using Digital


There has been a rise in small firms using digital to become more sustainable over the past year, as the pandemic prompts business owners to see saving the planet as increasingly critical.

Research from Small Business Britain and BT Skills For Tomorrow found a third of small firms have taken greater action to become more sustainable, with 47 per cent saying digital technologies have been a key enabler to this.

The study found that the Covid-19 pandemic has catapulted helping the environment to the forefront of business owners’ minds. Virtually all small firms (99 per cent) are now convinced of the importance of sustainability, with almost half (47 per cent) seeing this issue as more important than before lockdown began.

And the widespread pivot to digital during the pandemic is helping small businesses make sustainability gains. Over a third of small firms (42%) now make greater use of digital alternatives, such as online events, and have boosted their digital skills (48%) across everything from marketing to accounting.


Increased Environmental Concern


The heightened sense of imperative for environmental sustainability is also revealed by the fact that over two thirds (68 per cent) of small firms are keen to commit to the UK government’s target of going net zero by 2050.

This shift has been driven particularly by a desire to protect the planet, with over four fifths (88%) of business owners citing this as their primary motivation. Almost half (48%) are also prompted by growing customer demand for more environmentally sustainable products and services.

“Covid-19 has sparked profound change. While it’s been a tough time for small businesses, the silver lining is the powerful way firms have adopted digital, which not only builds future resilience, but also delivers some fantastic sustainability gains,” said Michelle Ovens CBE, founder of Small Business Britain.

Representing 99 per cent of UK business small firms can play a huge role in helping the UK, and the planet, get to net zero. We just need to give them the right support.”


In Need of Support


The research polled over 1000 firms in Small Business Britain’s UK community and found that despite the growth in environmental consciousness and commitments, small businesses need support to reach net zero.

Over three quarters (77 per cent) are not clear how to measure carbon emissions, with 73 per cent keen for more training and education to understand this.

Pete Oliver, MD, SME, for BT’s Enterprise business, said: “It’s encouraging to see that virtually all small businesses recognise the importance of sustainability and that during the pandemic, digital technologies have been a key enabler in helping small firms to reduce their carbon footprint, through remote working and a greater online presence.

“However, the fact that over three quarters of them don’t know how to measure their carbon emissions shows that small firms need more support and training to take action. Small businesses can take their first steps towards making a difference by signing up to the Government’s Business Climate Hub.

While we’re also making free learning content available via our Skills for Tomorrow programme.”