Canada’s small businesses say they don’t respond to regulations and fees intended to push them toward greener practices, but their behaviour seems to tell a different story.
A survey of small business — “Green Growth: How SMEs are working toward a greener future” — by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) found that the vast majority have implemented at least one environmentally-friendly measure in the past three years and that most have done so not because they had to, but because they wanted to. Eighty-four percent of respondents said they were primarily motivated by their personal belief that they had a responsibility to protect the environment. Only 22% said that government policies, such as fees, regulations and taxes, were a motivating factor.
However, small business owners also said they would adopt environmentally-friendly practices in response to price signals from the economy, which presumably could include energy cost hikes in response to carbon pricing mechanisms. Half of respondents said that cost savings were a motivating factor behind their adoption of green practices. Also important were the views of customers and employees.
For instance, the survey found that small businesses have adopted energy conservation measures in response to energy prices. In Ontario, where electricity costs are high, energy reduction measures were implemented by 70% of respondents who said they had adopted some form of business greening. In Atlantic Canada, another region with high electricity costs, reducing energy cost was either the first or second environmentally-friendly measure taken by small businesses.
The result makes sense. According to the CFIB, small businesses are much more sensitive to regulatory and tax changes. They are less able to absorb additional costs and would be more likely to adopt measures, such as conservation measures, to reduce them.
The survey did find a hunger among small business for more information, particularly plain-language resources and tools about energy conservation opportunities.