Six tips for how small businesses can take action on climate change

Content Summary

Author: Dr Jane Rennie, General Manager External Affairs, CPA Australia

Every business can help tackle climate change, whether they’re a billion-dollar multinational or a small business with only a handful of employees.

Traditionally, a lot of sustainability resources have been designed for the big end of town and focused on public reporting and disclosure.

However, our research at CPA Australia shows a majority of SMEs consider sustainability important and would like to learn and apply sustainability strategies in their business.

Tips for how small businesses can implement an environmental strategy

  1. Identify your exposures
  2. Define your goals
  3. Establish metrics
  4. Measure your performance
  5. Take action based on the results
  6. Bring your customers along with you.

Understand exposures and set goals

Every business large or small has environmental exposures, even if it’s just your utilities or waste disposal. Whatever a business’ size, the starting point is understanding what these are. The exact nature of the exposures will be business-specific and should take into account products or services produced, as well as upstream and downstream supply chains.

International frameworks like the UN Sustainable Development Goals can help you identify sustainability goals that are relevant to your business. If you’ve only got the bandwidth to focus on a couple, pick the ones that are most material for maximum impact.

Remember, positive change requires concrete actions. Don’t expect to meet your goals if you don’t do anything differently. If you do, you haven’t set the bar high enough.

Having a sustainability strategy can be a selling point for businesses, but you should expect your efforts to be scrutinised. Greenwashing is likely to be exposed and pilloried in online customer reviews.

It is critical to communicate your goals and achievements to your customers. This can be as simple as stick-taping a flyer in your window saying, for example, “Single use plastics no longer in use here” or “All our power is now 100% green”.

Finally, it is important to measure and report on your progress, which is something your accountant can help with. Independent assurance is a great way of holding yourself to account and identifying areas you need to work on.