Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) create more than 80 per cent of new jobs in Canada every year, but they also create 80 per cent of industry’s negative environmental impacts and more than 60 per cent of commercial waste. Clearly, conversations about sustainable business must include SMEs.
To date though, discussion around social and environmental responsibility has focused mostly on large enterprises. This report represents an attempt to bring SMEs into the conversation. These challenges were established by a council of SMEs from Quebec businesses recognized for their leadership in environmental and social responsibility. Representing various sectors of the economy, these leaders gathered for a one-day roundtable facilitated by Dr. Marie-France Turcotte, Director of the French Office of the Network for Business Sustainability.
The following seven questions, in order of importance, define the greatest sustainability challenges facing SMEs in 2012:
- How can we develop in-house expertise in sustainability?
- How can we articulate the business case for sustainability? How can we position it as a competitive advantage?
- What information will make consumers more receptive to environmentally and socially responsible products and services?
- How can we engage internal and external stakeholders so they support the organization on its journey toward sustainability?
- How can we build sustainability into our corporate culture?
- How do we combat “sustainability fatigue” and keep employees engaged?
- How can we integrate sustainability into the company’s long-term strategy?