Exploring SMEs and sustainability post-COVID-19

Ever since widespread lockdowns hit Australia (and the world) in March 2020 because of COVID-19, the global pandemic has been the number one issue facing small businesses.

While climate action and sustainability are still extremely important, small businesses have had to face the clear and present danger.

Small Business Australia ran a national survey earlier this year and it made for some pretty bleak reading. Almost one million SMEs have had to draw down on savings to survive; another 550,000 have reached into their superannuation and another 93,000 have been forced to sell real estate. The good news is there is an end in sight with COVID-19 vaccinations now rolling out across the country. That will hopefully mean a return to normality around October, 2021.

Why sustainability is still a major issue for SMEs

When the dust settles on COVID, sustainability and responsibility towards climate action and the environment will once again be very much in the spotlight.

With nine in 10 consumers saying that they would prefer to deal with brands that are taking a leadership role when it comes to sustainability and climate action, the time to start thinking about this process is now.

Not only is sustainability necessary from SMEs all over the world to help us achieve carbon net-zero by 2050, it is a key plank in the path to recovery from COVID-19.

Businesses agree that sustainability will result in positive growth

The Small Business Sustainability in a COVID-19 World report was recently released and it has highlighted how sustainability will be critical for small businesses and their ability to compete, grow and survive in the post-COVID world.

The report found that 44 per cent of SMEs now view sustainability as important to future success, which is up from 31 per cent in 2016. This spike has likely been inspired by recent weather events in Australia, including major floods and fires, as well as the impact of COVID-19. Brands now know they have to place purpose alongside profit at the top of their priority list. SMEs have identified the ways they can be more sustainable, attract more customers and grow with measures including:

Reuse and recycle programs: SMEs have identified waste and the materials used in their processes as areas that can be addressed for more sustainable operations and want to re-think the materials they use and buy into more reuse and recycling programs.

Packaging: Plastics in our oceans is another critical threat to the environment and with so many businesses taking up eCommerce options during COVID-19, addressing how goods are packaged is high on the agenda and more sustainable materials being used.

Community support: Involving the local community in all sustainability measures creates a connection and a bond between SMEs and their customers which will in turn drive loyalty.

The planning for these processes can begin now so that when your business emerges from COVID-19, you will be ready to face the next challenge and rise from the ashes of pandemic successfully.