Small and medium sized enterprises abandon green business practices as they struggle with recession, the Environment Agency reports.
A study covering 7,000 companies found a 75% drop in those operating what the agency described as "a basic formal environmental management system". More than half said the system or environmental policy was of "no use" to their business in the current climate.
The agency expressed "disappointment" at the low priority being given to green policies, saying that with half of all serious pollution incidents caused by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and average fines running at more than £10,000, small businesses "ignore green legislation at their commercial peril". The research also showed a fall in the appreciation amongst SMEs about their impact on the environment. Just 7% thought some of their business operations were harmful and under further questioning that total jumped to 46%.
But it was not all bad news, with data collected by NetRegs, the government's environmental website, also showing that in the past two years the number of small businesses reducing energy and water consumption had doubled and almost 85pc were now recycling waste compared with 66% in 2007. Overall 55% had taken some action to reduce their contribution to environmental damage.
Debbie Chatting, the website's strategy manager, said the survey had unearthed a "level of denial" among some small businesses and added: "SMEs make up 99% of British business so their cumulative impact is huge. They simply cannot be apathetic or maintain indifference."
Quite where she got the 99% figure from we cannot imagine and that does rather make you wonder about the rest of the data. As ever with these kind of government sponsored surveys you need to look deeper at the questions asked, and also remember that these people have an agenda - which is mostly: we're buggered if we have to go into the real world of private enterprise so let's make up as many alarming reports as possible and fake the data so it looks like we're doing something useful.
The website is also encouraging businesses to appoint "green ambassadors" – employees responsible for overseeing energy improvement programmes. Now this is something we can agree with. Relatively inexpensive and, if run well, should not be a great imposition on companies' resources.