SMEs and emissions reductions

April 21, 2022

What do SME operators really think about emissions reduction?

In late 2021, the eyes of the world turned to Glasgow as world leaders converged on the city for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) to discuss the world’s response to global emissions. During and since this time, there has been ongoing debate in Australia around the role of individuals, businesses small and large, and Government in responding to the challenge of lowering emissions. With a huge number of voices trying to be heard, it has become difficult to understand the expectations and role of Australian businesses in contributing to a reduction in emissions.

With this in mind, DBM set out to understand the attitudes of a key segment of Australians. We surveyed 500 SME operators (annual revenue under $40m) from our DBM Connect panel asking about their attitudes towards emissions, how their business is responding to the emissions challenge, and their expectations of suppliers and business partners, including banks and financial services providers.

SMEs believe they have a role to play in reducing emissions

Throughout the emissions debate, questions have abounded around what action Australia should take, and who exactly should be responsible for reduce emissions. DBM’s Emissions Reduction Survey showed that many Australian SMEs want to see actions taken on reducing emissions, with 23% wanting the Australian Federal Government to set net zero targets for 2030, an additional 22% wanting net zero by 2040, and a further 23% wanting net zero by 2050.

According to the Emissions Reduction Survey, SME operators also believed Government and large businesses should be primarily responsible for reducing emissions, with 81% believing Government should be completely or very responsible, while 79% thought large businesses should be completely or very responsible.

Despite this, SME operators also placed responsibility on themselves, with 70% saying SMEs are moderately or very responsible for reducing emissions. 69% of SMEs also agreed with the statement “I think it’s important to try to reduce my business’ carbon footprint” suggesting that many SMEs are willing to step up and do their bit to help reduce emissions.

SMEs are already taking action to reduce their emissions

The Emissions Reduction Survey also showed that Australian SMEs are not just saying they have some level of responsibility, many are already taking action to help reduce their emissions. 67% of Australian SMEs reported that they had taken action to reduce their emissions to date, while 58% said they intend to take action in the next two years. The most common actions SMEs have taken, or plan to take, include introducing re-use / recycling programs (87%), investing in renewable energy (72%), and changing to local suppliers (70%).

While the majority of SMEs have acted, or plan to act, to reduce their emissions, among those not acting, the leading barriers were the perception that their business is a low emitter anyway (49%), or the belief that there is nothing the business can do to reduce its emissions (44%).

Australian SMEs are playing their part to reduce emissions, and many expect their service providers
to do the same

 As part of DBM’s Emissions Reductions survey our team also explored how many SMEs are expecting their service providers to follow suit in reducing emissions, and how much of a role this plays in choosing which provider they will do business with. We particularly explored the relationships with telco, utility providers, and financial institutions. These insights are valuable in powering growth for our clients and are therefore not publicly available.

For more information please contact your DBM Account manager or make an enquiry at

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