By Daniel Hunter

British small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are putting their competitiveness and reputation at risk because they are not doing enough to improve their environmental credentials, according to new research from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

The findings show that one in five (19%) firms accept they are not doing enough to take on environmentally responsible practices and that although a quarter (25%) of SMEs say green issues are a top three priority for the year, the vast majority (71%) admit they do not understand the positive impact environmental responsibility can bring.

To help businesses improve their environmental credentials Lloyds Bank has launched an online planning tool. The tool allows firms to build their own action plans, in which they can set goals — for example, to make better use of resources, or to find new opportunities for cost savings. Businesses can also use the planning tool’s range of templates and guidance notes, to write their own Environmental Policy, which they can then use to prove their environmental credentials to customers, stakeholders, or in supply chain negotiations.

Adrian White, Managing Director of SME Banking, Lloyds Banking Group said: “The importance of environmental responsibility can often be overlooked and our research shows that many businesses do not understand the benefits, but it is an issue that has become increasingly important, not least to customers.

“Being environmentally responsible can help reduce business risks and can also bring lasting benefits — from lower costs and a wider customer base to better staff morale and retention.

“Some businesses might see environmental responsibility as costly or irrelevant but with our new online planning tool we hope to help firms overcome these perceptions. It will help businesses look at the gaps they need to address and the practical steps they need to take. In our 2015 SME Charter we have pledged to help 10,000 SMEs to engage in more environmentally responsible practices by 2020 and we hope that through our new sustainability portal we will succeed in reaching this goal.”