A growing number of large companies worldwide recognise the advantages of cleaner production in terms of reduced costs in materials, energy, and compliance with environmental requirements, as well as in responding to expectations of customers, investors and local communities. However, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), particularly micro-businesses, have limited capacity to learn about and interpret environmental regulations. Many EU and other OECD countries have addressed this challenge by simplifying requirements for low-risk facilities, for example, through standardised permits or general binding rules. Many have also implemented information-based tools and regulatory and financial incentives to encourage SMEs to comply with and go beyond environmental requirements. Strategies for greening SMEs are usually sector-specific, reflecting the environmental risk profile of the sector concerned, and involve business and trade associations.
In EaP countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine), SMEs represent the growing majority of all businesses. Although small businesses’ individual environmental footprint may be low, their aggregate impact is considerable. However, EaP countries have given little consideration to the greening of small businesses, and the legal, policy and institutional means to enhance the environmental performance of SMEs is lacking.
DID YOU KNOW? SMEs account for approximately 99% of all enterprises, two-thirds of employment, and 60-70% of industrial pollution in Europe. The key sectors where SMEs have a particularly significant environment impact include livestock farming, construction, metal finishing, waste treatment, food and drink industry, textile and leather manufacturing, etc.