Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the beating heart of Europe’s economy, accounting for over 90% of all businesses in the EU and for more than half of its gross domestic product, whilst employing about 100 million EU workers before the pandemic.
SMEs bring innovative solutions to challenges like climate change, resource efficiency and social cohesion and help spread this innovation throughout Europe’s regions. They are therefore central to the EU’s twin transitions to a sustainable and digital economy.
Already struggling with long-standing problems such as regulatory burdens and difficulties to access markets, small businesses have been particularly hard-hit by the ongoing COVID crisis. For a successful recovery, a stable and predictable environment for long-term sustainable growth must be re-established as quickly as possible. Sustainability should represent a growth opportunity for all businesses. However, the latest ‘Flash Eurobarometer’ survey on SMEs shows 70% of EU SMEs say they are facing at least one obstacle that prevents their enterprise from becoming sustainable.
From the start-up stage, sustainability is seen as an afterthought for many SMEs, with the focus being on profits, revenue and business growth. This is because sustainability is seen as a long-term investment that often lacks short-term returns, meaning for an emerging entrepreneur, investing in sustainability is less attractive.
The current motto of the COVID recovery is to ‘build back better’, by placing sustainability and the environment at the forefront of our social and economic recovery. How can SMEs be encouraged and supported to recover strongly, whilst also thinking sustainably?
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Recovery and sustainability – how can SMEs achieve both?
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