By Kristy Dorsey

More than half of small and medium-sized businesses in Scotland remain committed to improving sustainability despite the economic pressures of Covid-19, a new survey has found.

According to the Business Barometer produced by the commercial arm of Bank of Scotland, 56 per cent of SMEs in Scotland said becoming more environmentally sustainable is important to their business. That was just 13 percentage points down on the same period a year ago, before the pandemic took hold.

Pressure from customers is the top driver for improvements, cited by 20% of those questioned. This was followed by long-term cost savings (19%) and compliance with corporate social responsibility policies (14%).

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“Scottish businesses have experienced major disruption this year because of Covid-19, so it’s encouraging to see so many that are still focused on improving their environmental credentials,” Bank of Scotland regional director Fraser Sime said. “Environmental sustainability will play a huge part in the success of Covid-19 recovery strategies, both in Scotland and across the UK."

Cash reserves and government grants are the most popular forms of finance for SMEs looking to improve their environmental performance, with 68% saying they continued to work towards improved sustainability during the past year.

Almost a third (28%) said they had invested in energy efficient equipment or machinery, while 27% reported they had made alterations to their premises to improve energy efficient.

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A fifth said they had used suppliers that source environmentally friendly products and services, while 17% introduced policies and incentives to help employees reduce their carbon footprint.

The Business Barometer survey was conduced with 100 SMEs between November 2 and November 16, and has been produced monthly since January 2002.