Sources of Sustainability Information Used by Small and Mid-sized Companies

Where do small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) obtain information on sustainability best practices, methods for implementation, and measurable success metrics for their specific industry?

In the largest U.S.-based research study on SME attitudes towards business sustainability practices conducted to date, Sustainability4SMEs asked this question. The objective of the question is to identify the organizations and knowledge bases within a community that local businesses turn to for sustainable business practices information so that they can support them in real time, eliminating confusion and lengthy delays.

In addition, the results of the question provide opportunities for these agencies and knowledge bases to be proactive, reaching out to their local business community and constituents with actionable sustainability information aimed at strengthening the economics of the businesses and contributing to overall local economic growth. (Specific initiatives by industry are covered in separate questions, to be addressed in future blog posts.)

The figure below illustrates the results of the research question as of late July. The lower the bar, the more important the source of information; a 1 is the highest priority source, 2 is next major source, etcetera through the top five sources used. DO NOT interpret the tall bars as being unimportant. The fact these responses are part of the top five sources used indicate they also play a strong role in the local business community for sustainability information gathering.

Industry associations and Journals/Magazines/Internet have been identified as the primary sources of sustainability information in the SME marketplace. Industry associations are a logical primary source of information as they are among the most trusted advisors to SMEs. Industry associations are able to provide experiences and knowledge specific to the business. The broad information search that Journals and Internet afford enables a view into what is going on around the globe, potentially enabling an accelerated adoption rate for low cost, high return greening initiatives.

The response option Employees and workforce is a strong third source of business sustainability information. This implies a relatively high degree of employee engagement in SMEs’ business greening initiatives. Employee engagement is important because long term success depends on everyone within the company buying in to the initiatives and objectives.

In addition, those involved in the hands-on day-to-day operations have an “on the ground” view of specific processes and how they interoperate with other processes within the firm. Employees will be the first to know if a prospective change in one area will have a positive or negative rippling effect in another area or across the company.

Are these sources of sustainability information consistent with your firm, or do you use other sources? There is still time to add your voice to this research project! Note responses are reported in aggregate, so your input is anonymous unless you WANT to be highlighted as a case study.

Next week we will identify the hurdles and gating factors companies are running into that prevent them from getting on the sustainability path. If your company has less than 500 employees, please take 10 minutes to complete the 28-question survey. You will find it here.


[…] their outreach and support programs aimed at the SME market. Sustainability4SMEs identified in a previous post that trade associations and a variety of other advisory organizations (e.g. chambers of commerce, […]

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