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Small Business Data

Nine out of ten small businesses say sustainability important to future of economy

According to the United Nations, the world could see irreversible damage within the next eight years if global warming continues at its current rate. But there is hope. A recent press release by the UN proclaims we have the power to halve carbon emissions in the same time frame if we start taking climate action right now.

As a small business owner, it may not feel like any climate action you take within your business can save the planet. Small drop, big bucket, right? But small businesses represent 90% of businesses globally. If every small business takes steps towards sustainability, that small drop becomes a tidal wave of real change.

Sustainability is important to the future of the economy

A recent survey commissioned by QuickBooks1 confirms that small businesses are ready to make waves. Only 5% of small business owners and decision-makers said they don’t believe that environmental sustainability is important to the future of the economy. The majority (72%) believe sustainability is very or extremely important.

In fact, more than 3 in 5 business owners say they’re already taking steps to reduce their environmental impact. For most, that means recycling, investing in renewable materials, and sourcing more materials locally.

Virtual meetings may help decrease carbon emissions

For nearly two in five business owners, taking steps towards sustainability means allowing employees to work remotely and hosting virtual meetings. After all, transportation is the number one source of carbon pollution in the US, and an American’s average commute time is about 28 minutes each way. 

Fewer cars on the road mean less traffic, reduced carbon emissions, and improved air quality in cities. In fact, a recent study found that working from home just four days a week would reduce nitrogen dioxide by about 10%--and, in some cases, reduce our personal emissions by nearly 80%.

Business owners face tall hurdles in going green

Even though 95% of small business owners believe sustainability is important, 35% of QuickBooks survey respondents said they’re not trying to reduce their carbon footprint. These businesses face three major barriers: money, time, and resources.

More than one in two small business owners say money is the biggest barrier to going green. Things like upgrading to solar panels, updating an inefficient HVAC system, and even replacing old lightbulbs can add up quickly. 

But green experts say these initial costs are investments—and the return on investment is evident. For example, switching to LED lighting has an average payback period of less than 12 months. The US Department of Energy estimates that widespread LED usage would save more than $30 billion by 2027. And because LED lights last 25 times as long as incandescent bulbs, they need replacing a lot less often. 

Good for the planet, good for business

Beyond energy savings, studies show that going green isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for business. Today’s consumers care about supporting businesses that care about the environment, and they’re willing to change their consumption habits or spend more to do so. In the US alone, 61% of consumers say sustainability is a top criterion when making a purchase. And more than one-third are willing to pay up to 25% more for sustainable products. 

For business owners struggling with money, resources, and time, taking steps towards sustainability can be as simple as shutting the lights off in favor of natural light and making sure computers or displays are powered down at the end of the day. Small drops, yes, but many small drops make waves.

More resources

Find more tips for going green on the QuickBooks Blog or visit the QuickBooks SME Climate Hub for additional resources. Check out the Intuit Climate Action Marketplace to browse green business resources curated for small businesses and vetted as low-cost and simple sustainability solutions.


Small Business Insights Survey, March 2022

QuickBooks commissioned Qualtrics to survey 2,031 small business owners and decision-makers ages 18+ throughout the U.S. in March 2022. Respondents’ businesses have up to 100 employees and more than $5,000 in annual revenue. Roughly one in four (29%) are brick-and-mortar businesses. The remainder describe themselves as omni-channel, multi-channel, or primarily online businesses. Almost a third (31%) are product-based businesses, more than two in five (44%) are service-based, and the remainder sell a mix of products and services. One in two (50%) are located in urban areas while the remainder are in rural or suburban locations. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest decimal place. Respondents received remuneration.

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