In the most significant study of its kind to date, new research from the University of Waterloo shows that Canada’s small businesses are important- and often overlooked- drivers of sustainability and the green economy.
The Waterloo study, led by researcher Sarah Burch, discovered that 8 out of 10 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) surveyed think that sustainability is important. SMEs make up 98.2 per cent of all businesses in Canada, representing an enormous potential force in advancing environmental health and social wellbeing in our communities.
“Big corporations often get the headlines in debates about sustainable business practices, but in reality, we’ve discovered that many small businesses see sustainability as more important than their larger counterparts,” said Sarah Burch, Canada Research Chair in Sustainability Governance and Innovation at the University of Waterloo. “Small businesses aren’t waiting around to be told to care about the environment, they’re already doing it.”
The report, conducted by the GATE (Governing and Accelerating Transformative Entrepreneurship) research project, surveyed close to 2,000 SMEs in Toronto and Vancouver on a variety of sustainability measures including community outreach, reducing waste and supporting social justice through purchasing practices.
The survey findings directly challenge the common assumption that SMEs primarily see sustainability as a way to cut costs. SMEs are even more powerfully motivated by building a good reputation within their community and aligning business operations with their personal values.
“They may be small, but by their sheer numbers, SME’s can have a massive cumulative effect on the environmental and social well-being of our country,” said Burch. “The choices they make ripple through supply chains and have direct impacts in communities. Now that we know this, what’s needed are policies that support and accelerate the efforts these small businesses are making.”