Pandemic aftershock preventing SMEs going green

Half of SMEs state that taking steps towards sustainability is not a main priority for business leaders as they continue to deal with the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic

The most recent SME Tracker survey from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Corporate Finance Network (CFN) found that issues such as supply chain concerns, hiring skilled talent, and managing financial pressures due to rising inflation and the cost of finance are being prioritised ahead of sustainability by SMEs.

The survey also found that almost half, 46%, stated that lack of time and resources to implement strategies was another reason that steps were not being taken with 82% stating that it was a lack of software to measure the performance, 51% stated that it was financial restrictions, and 46% cited lack of expertise and understanding of where to start with sustainability plans which are holding them back.

The Tracker survey, which reports data from accountants representing 16,305 SME clients, found that just 4% of clients requested support from them on sustainability issues.

Businesses also reported that they are still facing challenges obtaining the right financial backing from traditional outlets now that government-backed loans have wound down with 65% of accountancy firms stating that clients have struggled to access overdrafts in the last three months, which jumped from 57% in August.

Accountants in the survey stated that 20% of their clients had not received enough financial support from the government to enable them to recover, 25% stated that businesses had struggled to obtain loans that accountants believed they were eligible for, and 55% have struggled to received businesses loans.

Despite this, 40% of small businesses report that they are back to pre-Covid levels of productivity or turnover with only 8% expecting that they will not be in businesses in the next 12 months.

Claire Bennison, head, ACCA UK said: ‘Small business owners are consumed by urgent issues at the moment and fighting to keep their operations running. It’s understandable that they are not focused on sustainability, but we would encourage them to try to take a longer-term view and build that resilience into their organisation.’

Off the back of the survey results, ACCA and the Corporate Finance Network have called on the government to support SMEs more to enable them to build sustainability into their recovery plans.

The groups also call for larger businesses and accountants to offer help SMEs to understand how they can contribute in the race for net zero.

Kirsty McGregor, founder of the Corporate Finance Network, said: ‘Accountants have a great opportunity to become a source of expertise in this area so that they can educate their business owner clients to think about how to tackle sustainability.’


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