Thursday 16 September 2021: The supports available to SMEs to improve their sustainability must be simplified and streamlined in order to be effective, the CPA Ireland Annual Conference heard last week. CPA Ireland is now calling for the creation of an SME Climate Hub to reboot stalled sustainability plans across the economy.
Addressing the Annual Conference, Áine Collins, CPA Ireland President said “Recent research revealed that 37% of CPA members had delayed the implementation of environmental sustainability strategies due to the pandemic. As the nation moves out of the crisis and into a phase of recovery it is essential that sustainability is placed at the very centre.”
While supports for SMEs have been put in place, Áine Collins believes that they are often too restrictive to be effective. “There are at least half a dozen government schemes available to support SMEs build sustainability. However, there are many barriers to availing of these, many require you to be an exporting firm, while others require you to have less than 10 employees. This leads to confusion, frustration and is a clear deterrent to any SME considering sustainability improvements.”
CPA Ireland are now recommending the introduction of an SME Climate Hub, as they successfully operate in other countries including the UK and Sweden. “This would act as an online resource centre and one stop shop for SMEs, regardless of their industry, size and status, to avail of advice and support. The grants schemes and provision expertise are already in place across various government offices, it now needs to brought together under one virtual roof, so that SMEs can understand exactly what is available to them.”
“Many SMEs owners want to be more sustainable but don’t even know where to start” according to Ms. Collins. “Many of the grants are for specific investments, which can be valuable, but only if you know where to invest. This Hub must offer a starting point that should include provide access to low cost and detailed audits to advise SMEs how they deliver reductions or begin to offset emissions.
Ms Collins concluded by urging the importance of businesses of all sizes to get serious about climate change. “The phrase ‘a code red for humanity’ should echo in all our ears. This is the biggest threat to our economy, our society and our future. It is everyone’s responsibility to do whatever they can. Those businesses who fail to do so will see their bottom lines suffer in the years ahead.
As part of their commitment to sustainability CPA Ireland has pledged to plant a tree on behalf of each attendee at last week's Conference. The CPA Ireland Annual Conference was kindly sponsored by AIB.