Small to Medium size enterprises (SME’s) the world over are becoming more important as people realise their contribution to employment and the global economy. Many SME’s globally are owners of around 99% of all private sector businesses. They generate substantial income with UK SME’s, for example, generating £ 3 300 billion and its EU counter-part creating 86.8 million jobs.
An SME can be loosely defined as “any enterprise employing less then 250 people with a annual turnover not exceeding €50 million.” While UK SME’s are believed to contribute to 49.8% to the economy even while many have been suffering through the 5 years of economic instability, the turning point could have been reached in the round up of 2012 – 2013 of SME European performance. The improving economic state of the EU should hopefully allow more then just the 0.4% of SME’s who have Environmental Management System (EMS) accreditation to become more, especially with at least 24% practicing some EMS ways.
While the benefits of EMS adoption can be highly positive to an SME, especially when its main benefits encourage efficiency and cost reduction, there is still the naysayers who are unwilling through choice and lack of awareness to begin to adopt any EMS strategy, even while some become ‘silent’ adopters who lack accreditation but try and practice some models of greater environmental performance. Those who want to become accredited have two main options to follow through with.
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ISO 14001 and Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) have become two of the most popular forms of accreditation for any business ‘greening’ its credentials. Both aim to provide a structure for developing systematic approaches to improve their environmental performance. ISO 14001 is a quality standard that has developed the need for environmental policy, environmental legislation acknowledgement and an annual review of goals and targets, which can be subjected to an annual internal audit. EMAS follows suite with this, requiring its member bodies to be able to meet ISO standards whilst further adhering to EMAS regulation (the binding legalities of members for EMS) and considering additional scope such as employee engagement and publishing and environmental statement.
If these still seem unattractive to the SME market, the challenges and resistance of SME’s comes heavily into play. Many SME’s will resist the move to adopt as they suffer from a lack of pressure, both internally and externally. There is no requirement by legislation to become accredited and often customers don’t apply enough force. SME’s can still be in the dark and a lack awareness of EMS and if it can even be applied to their business will hold them back. Many SME’s still do not see the benefit of adopting EMS within their business framework.
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While challenges vary, two highly important factors that impact SME’s do revolve around cost and time, many SME’s focus on short-term running of their business and don’t have the time or the finances to implement or investigate EMS. Whilst these two issues can inter-relate there is also the added issues of awareness and understanding. With up to 57% of business respondents feeling they would need more information on how their business could help the environment, this lack of support and resources can severely block plans for business to gain implementation, even those who are willing and aware.
We then encounter the issue of impact; whilst it is likely SME’s can contribute up to 70% of industrial pollution and 60% of CO2 emissions (in the UK) surveys conducted have found the 86% of UK SME’s feel they aren’t doing any harm. If these organizations are unaware of their impacts, they will not implement EMS as they do not see the need!
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Owner Managers within SME’s often have their own personal opinions and attitudes towards certain aspects of their business such as EMS and how they wish to adapt. Owners can vary in opinion from feeling it is their ‘moral imperative’ to implement EMS whilst others believe they have minimal impact and do not need to act. They can also have informal decision making structures which are fluid and don’t aide the implementation of a structured system. These same systems still suffer from less scrutiny then their multi-national counterparts as many customers believe the impact of SME’s Is low and partly explains why SME’s may see they are not doing any harm themselves.
Overall, EMS adoption is low because SME’s choose not to adopt it and don’t see the benefits but even when they may consider it, there is a wealth of hurdles they need to overcome to successfully implement EMS. It can only be hoped with time, climate change issues and legislation that SME’s being to adopt EMS more readily.
Here is how to write your own reliable Environmental Policy, which won’t eat up your bank account, together with a handy example.