According to the Eurobarometer survey on "SMEs, resource efficiency and green markets", 37% of EU SMEs have at least one full or part-time green employee. Green jobs are largely created in SMEs as opposed to large firms: In 2012, 1 in 8 employees of small and medium-sized firms had a green job or almost 13% of all SME jobs.
In large firms it was only 1 in 33 equivalent to 3% of all large company jobs. Green jobs in SMEs are also estimated to expand dynamically with a rate of 35% in the next 2 years.
The Eurobarometer survey also reveals other sources of untapped potential which could be used by SMEs. For example, less than a quarter of SMEs take advantage of the single market for green products or services. Bureaucracy is considered as one of the obstacles: 20% of SMEs says that it would be easier to do green investments if cross-border administrative and legal procedures were not so complex.
SMEs in green industries are also maturing. Three in five (61%) SMEs selling green products or services have been active in green markets for more than three years compared to 52% in the US. Food and beverages (25%) and electronic and mechanical machinery and equipment (23%) are the most commonly sold green products and services by SMEs in the EU.
European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship unveiling today the Eurobarometer results said: "I am happy to see that SMEs are taking on this huge untapped potential which will pay off with more innovation, more competitive SMEs and more jobs. However, there is still a lot of work to do. Only very few European SMEs extend their green business to foreign markets. Knowing that the EU makes up roughly one third of the world market for environmental industries this reveals a huge potential for SMEs to grow."
Green SMEs: Strong at home, but weak abroad
Green markets (1) for SMEs in the EU remain mainly domestic. 87% of SMEs involved in green business (or the green economy) operate in their national markets. Just below a quarter of SMEs report that they exploit the opportunities of the Single Market. With BRIC countries (2) estimated to account for about 60% of world GDP by 2030, only 3% of SMEs in the EU adventure themselves to sell their green products or services in Asia and the South Pacific and a mere 2% in Latin America.
Customer demand plays a major role
According to the Eurobarometer survey, the main reason for SMEs in the EU to sell green products or services is demand from customers (48%). Companies’ core values (32%) and image (30%) also play a role in this respect.
SMEs reduce energy and resources consumption
93% of EU SMEs take actions to be more resource efficient. 64% of SMEs save energy, 61% recycle and 62% minimise their waste. 33% of SMEs improve resource efficiency as a top priority.
Policy measures can help unleash the 'green growth engine'
Financial incentives are considered by SMEs as the best means to help them become greener in the way they operate and the products and services they offer.
Approximately half (51%) of SMEs consider tax rebates, grants and loans as the best policy measures to support energy efficiency investments.
Approximately half (49%) of the SMEs that are already offering green products indicate that financial incentives for developing products would be the best way to help the expansion of their range of green products or services.
31% of the SMEs that are currently not offering green products and services believe that financial incentives would be the best way to help them launch a range of green products or services.
Administrative simplification would boost green products
Technical advice and administrative simplification are also considered to be very effective in helping SMEs to be greener. In the next two years, four SMEs in five (80%) plan to implement resource efficiency actions but one in five SMEs says that it would be easier if administrative and legal procedures were not so complex or the costs of taking actions would be lower.
One in four (25%) SMEs say that simplifying administrative procedures for constructing cogeneration capacity such as installing solar panels would be particularly effective to boost energy efficiency.
More information on energy service contracts and options to save energy would also help one in four (24%) SMEs to reduce their energy bill.
Around one in five SMEs currently who do not offer green products and services say some assistance in identifying potential markets or customers for green products or services could make consider entering green markets.
Green public procurement still a challenge
Green public procurement as a driver for a more sustainable economy is still a challenge for SMEs. According to available data, only 11% of SMEs in the EU have bid for a public procurement tender that included environmental requirements compared with 16% of large companies.
The Flash Eurobarometer 342 survey "SMEs, resource efficiency and green markets" was carried out between the 24th of January and the 10th of February 2012 by TNS Political & Social. It was conducted in the 27 EU Member States and in Albania, Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Norway, the Republic of Serbia, Turkey, Israel and the United States. It is a survey that covers businesses employing 1 or more persons in the Manufacturing (Nace category C), Retail (Nace category G), Services (Nace categories I/J/K/H/L/M/) and Industry (Nace categories B/D/E/F) sectors within the European Union. It does not cover sole traders.
(1) Green products and services are those with a predominant function of reducing environmental risk and minimise pollution and resources. For this survey, products with environmental features (eco-designed, eco-labelled, organically produced, with an important recycled content) were also included. SMEs in the green sector which are active in industry (31%) and retail (29%) sectors are more likely to offer green products and services than the average (26%). Half (52%) of the EU companies active in the green market offer products and services with environmental features such as eco dry-cleaning or organic food products. 29% operate in the area of recycled materials and 20% in renewable energy or solid waste management.
(2) Brazil, Russia, India and China