Are very small businesses prepared for climate risks?

Small and medium-sized businesses are, on the whole, ill-prepared to face the consequences of climate change, as revealed by a study carried out by the Goodwill-management consultancy. Despite their growing exposure to climate risks, most of them do not consider themselves ready to face up to them.

Climate risks for small and medium-sized businesses

During the summer of 2022, which was marked by drought, several heatwaves, devastating fires and violent storms, many small and medium-sized businesses suffered the consequences of climate change.

Empty restaurant terraces during heat waves, campsites hit by forest fires, disrupted work patterns for construction workers, difficulties in the delivery and logistics sector: small and medium-sized businesses have had to deal with a variety of hazards.

But are they sufficiently prepared to face climate risks? This is the question addressed by a study carried out by the Goodwill-management consultancy, in partnership with the insurer MAIF and the CSR agency LUCIE. 300 small and medium-sized businesses answered questions designed to find out how they perceive climate risks.

Among these risks, those most likely to affect VSEs are, according to the study, floods, droughts, extreme temperatures and extreme weather events, such as storms, cyclones or heavy snowfalls.

For small and medium-sized businesses, the consequences of climate change are numerous. They will have to face :

  • to the scarcity of resources,
  • supply shortages,
  • to rising costs,
  • longer lead times,
  • increased carbon and/or environmental taxes,
  • to new regulatory constraints.

68% of SMBs surveyed believe they will be impacted by climate change in the future, and 14% say they are already suffering the consequences. 45% expect to be affected within the next 10 years.

According to German Watch, between 1976 and 2005, 860,000 small and medium-sized businesses were exposed to more than 50 abnormally hot days, and this figure is set to rise to 5.3 million by 2050.

Very small businesses ill-prepared to cope with climate change

Although French VSEs and SMEs are aware of the risks posed by climate change, they are ill-prepared. 54% of companies surveyed felt unprepared to face the consequences of global warming.

However, 54% of them have already taken steps to adapt to this change, notably by diversifying their suppliers, adapting their offer, looking for alternatives, taking risk prevention measures and collaborating with other structures located in the same area or working in the same sector.

VSEs and SMEs have little knowledge of existing resources for implementing adaptation measures. More than 3 out of 4 companies said they were unaware of the support mechanisms available to help them cope with climate change, which reflects a major need for training and awareness-raising.

How can we anticipate climate risks?

The Goodwill-management study points out the two main solutions available to companies to cope with climate change: on the one hand, mitigation of this change, via the " transition to a low-carbon economy ", and on the other, adaptation to this same change.

To get started on the path to mitigation, VSEs and SMEs can begin by measuring their environmental impact by carrying out a greenhouse gas emissions assessment (BEGES), then reduce these emissions by using renewable energies or by carrying out energy-efficiency renovations to their buildings.

At present, action by small and medium-sized businesses is still too limited: 80% of business leaders say they are aware of the climate emergency, but only 13% believe they will be able to reduce their carbon emissions in the coming years, according to figures from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2021.

The aim of adaptation strategies is to reduce the impact of climate change on the activities of small and medium-sized businesses. 90% of companies having implemented adaptation strategies said they had done so out of conviction, 45% to protect themselves from risks, and 45% out of business opportunity.

Lack of time (35%) and resources (34%) were cited as the main obstacles to implementing adaptation measures. In 24% of cases, the companies surveyed said they had to deal with internal resistance to change, and in 16% of cases, with a lack of technological alternatives.

Finally, the study mentions certain " maladaptation " measures, likely to make companies more vulnerable to climate risks in the long term. The most widespread maladaptation measure is " systematic use of air conditioning ".