Byline: By Joanna Geary Enterprise Editor
Owners and senior managers of SMEs are optimistic about the future, but underestimate the challenge posed by environmental issues, a new report claims.
Almost two-thirds of small businesses believe their revenues will increase by more than ten per cent per annum, according to the study by international business coaching firm Shirlaws. SMEs are also confident of their role as drivers of the economy, with 71 per cent believing they will be a key source of innovation for larger players.
But despite major corporations clamouring to stake their green credentials by reducing emissions and waste, small firms are less concerned.
The study ranked environmental issues 18th in a list of the 18 biggest challenges facing businesses in the next five years.
Just 2.8 per cent of owners, partners, managing directors and chief executives put environmental issues in their top five concerns.
Only ten per cent of respondents thought "having a clear environmental stance" would help them recruit and retain talent. This rose to 13.4 per cent of those aged 25 to 41 and dropped to eight per cent in the 42 to 60-year-old category.
Darren Shirlaw, founder of Shirlaws Global, said: "It has to be a concern that this sector of the commercial community is not registering the impact that green issues will have on the future of their businesses.
"It has already been shown that Generation-Y talent -just entering the commercial world - rates an environmental stance as important in potential employers.
"And it is unthinkable that large corporations, who number SMEs among their suppliers, will not demand that their supply chain contribute to their publicised environmental goals."
According to respondents the biggest business challenge was recruiting and retaining talent - with 62 per cent listing it as one of their top five concerns.
Increased efficiency (46 per cent), finding new customers (36 per cent), developing future leaders (33 per cent) and controlling costs (32 per cent).
Mr Shirlaw said: "From our experience coaching SMEs we know that management time is often spent on day-to-day administration rather than concentrating on strategic issues to help develop the business. …