Rise in small business interest in green supports

Nine in 10 Irish SMEs seeking to retain or bolster investments toward sustainability in the next 12 months.

Uisce Éireann’s water stewardship programme among various supports available to small businesses in Clare


February 16 2024 – Small and medium-sized businesses interested in grants to help them invest in sustainable measures increased by over 40% in the past year, according to the bi-annual Uisce Éireann SME Sustainability Sentiment Survey.

The increase indicates a strong desire from businesses to reduce the environmental footprint of their operations. More than a third of Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) see the availability of grants to offset the cost of investment as a key driver in making their businesses more sustainable.

SMEs are actively seeking avenues to invest in greener practices, as nearly half of respondents (45%) cite a lack of available supports as a barrier to implementing measures such as sourcing renewable energy and reducing carbon footprint. Additionally, 38% of businesses say they would welcome further information on how to go green, emphasising a proactive stance in addressing challenges.

The government has a wide range of grant schemes available to help businesses on their green journey, including the Energy Efficiency Grantthe ‘the Enterprise Ireland Green Transition Fund’, the Non-Domestic Microgen Scheme, as well as the Climate Toolkit for Business. Further, Uisce Eireann has trained 750 businesses in their Water Stewardship Programme since 2020.

The number of SMEs planning to maintain or increase their investment into sustainable measures for their business remains high. Nine in 10 SMEs are seeking to retain or bolster investments toward sustainability in the next 12 months, a trend that’s been consistent since 2022. 

During a period where businesses of all sizes face a wide array of globally influenced challenges, the cost of making changes understandably remains a key consideration for SMEs, as over three-quarters (78%) identified cost as a barrier to investing in sustainable practices. Further, seven in 10 SMEs considered cost as an influence when making investment decisions. 

Commenting on the survey results, David Broderick, Director of the Small Firms Association (SFA) said:

“Small business owners care about the environment so it’s not surprising to see the positive results reflected in this survey. That said, with the significant increase in the cost of doing business, small businesses are finding it more challenging to keep sustainability at the top of their agenda as some struggle to stay afloat.

“The SFA is actively working on behalf of our members to look for additional, easy to access, supports from government and their local authorities to overcome the barriers that small businesses face.

“SFA’s MentorsWork provides hands-on consultancy services focusing on addressing sustainability needs in businesses up to 250 employees in every sector of the economy. The new consultancy offering is now open to applications along with our MentorsWork 12-week programme.”

Conservation efforts

SMEs have been active in conservation areas throughout the past year, with 78% actively attempting to reduce the amount of waste they produced and 77% aiming to improve their energy efficiency. Efforts towards water conservation among SMEs has grown over the last quarter, rising 19 percentage points from 48% to 57%. 

Commenting on the survey, Head of Customer Operations Geoffrey Bourke said: 

“The B&A results show Irish SMEs remain committed to maintaining and improving sustainability measures, despite ongoing cost challenges. These businesses are aware of how important sustainable practices are, not only with their customers, but also for the green transition of Ireland.

“The survey also reflects a growing interest in Government supports and advice. That more businesses than ever are seeking out this information shows the strength of commitment to taking sustainability action – and Uisce Éireann wants to help them achieve their aim particularly when it comes to being more sustainable in their use of water. Throughout a difficult time for small businesses, we stand ready to help them reduce their environmental footprint by conserving the precious resource that is clean drinking water.”

Uisce Éireann support

Uisce Éireann offers a suite of easy-to-access and free initiatives to help SMEs reduce costs and become more sustainable when it comes to their use of water, including its first-of-its-kind-globally Water Stewardship Programme and Annual Membership Scheme.

Uisce Éireann recently launched its text alert service designed to provide important updates to its valued business customers across Ireland. The service ensures that businesses stay informed about planned or unplanned water outages, as well as drinking water restriction advisories, such as boil water notices. Businesses can visit our website at water.ie/business-updates to register.

Geoffrey added: 

“Uisce Éireann understands the concerns and challenges facing SMEs and is committed to advising how they can achieve savings while also conserving water and becoming more sustainable. There is growing awareness among SMEs about the value of water to their business and the potential savings that can be made to their bottom line by becoming more water aware.

“We also host a suite of free initiatives to help SMEs to thrive by reducing their costs and becoming more sustainable in their water use. These include our Water Stewardship Training Programme which helps organisations lower their water use, our Annual Certification Scheme, and the Uisce Éireann water conservation pledge, which enable businesses to demonstrate their commitment to water sustainability and avail of the great free resources on our website.

“We would encourage all SMEs to visit www.water.ie to find out how they can help conserve water and reduce costs.”

Conducted by Behaviour and Attitudes (B&A), the Uisce Éireann SME Sustainability Sentiment Survey interviewed the owners of more than 350 small- and medium-sized businesses, seeking their opinion on the importance of investing in sustainability for their businesses and customers and examining the barriers that currently exist to investment in the area.