Procurement · 7 February 2018

Consumer expectations drive ethical business ambitions of small firms

Business owners can typically save around £4,000 per year on energy bills by investing in solar panels

Some eight in ten small UK business owners plan to introduce ethical business practices within the next few years, according to new findings, as consumers and staff place greater value on sustainability.

In a survey of small business leaders, advertising agency 18 Feet and Rising found that 88 per cent valued sustainability and understood the environmental responsibilities of commercial organisations.

Driving the ethical mind-set was the understanding that consumers wanted to see brands behave better. Some 84.5 per cent of respondents believed their customers were interested in seeing sustainable practices introduced.

Almost half thought introducing ethical practices would grow their customer base, while over a quarter believed their firm would become a more attractive proposition for both new and existing staff.

With the benefits of responsibly sourced products, local supply chains and energy efficiency widely appreciated by bosses, eight in ten planned to introduce ethical business practices within three to five years.

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However, despite the wish to embrace sustainability at their firm, 70 per cent claimed they had so far struggled to implement greener policies. One factor was cited more frequently that any other as barrier – cost.

The findings uncovered three key ethical business practices which were most frequently prioritised by respondents.

  1. Treat employees fairly
  2. Sourcing manufacturing materials responsibly
  3. Become more energy efficient 

Commenting on the findings, Jonathan Trimble, CEO of 18 Feet and Rising, said consumer values had started to shift.

“There’s a new generation of people growing up in a time of flat economic growth whose lives don’t permit the same consumerist ambitions as previous generations,” he explained.

“There are still perceived barriers even amongst SMEs who are better placed but currently less experienced in actioning change than their corporate counterparts.”

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and has previously worked as a content editor in local government and the ecommerce industry.

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