Business Brains

Recession is no excuse to let green policies slip

Posting in Energy

Survey suggests small-business owners still view sustainability measures as an expense to be borne, rather than a competitive advantage.

GreenBiz.com is carrying a story about small businesses and sustainability based on a survey of private businesses out of the United Kingdom. Here's the good news: More than 60 percent of the respondents claim that the recession has not affected their environmental plans, while the rest are conflicted on the matter. Here's the original story.

Of course, it helps that the country has mandated a 34 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, which makes doing something somewhat more urgent. But this "stick" approach drew criticism from the sponsor of the report, the Forum of Private Businesses, which says that doing something meaningful is still easier said than done. About one-fourth of those surveyed by the forum, as an example, admit that they haven't done anything yet, citing excuses such as the difficult of controlling energy efficiency in buildings that they rent and don't own.

But the main reason that business owners don't do anything is because it currently it to hard to figure out WHAT to do. Here's an observation from Matt Goodman, a policy representative, as quoted by GreenBiz.com:

"When small businesses are considering implementing environmentally friendly policies, the will is certainly there but it is often thwarted by the perception of steep costs and a lack of information and support. ... We need a more joined-up approach from the government including a system of workable incentives that are rewarding rather than punitive."

I'm sure the same could be said of the United States. The challenge is that many people still look at the recession as an impediment toward progress on sustainability, as opposed to a motivating force that could be used to develop true competitive advantage.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure