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Sustainability in Small vs Large Businesses: Differences, Challenges, and Strategies

Sustainability is often associated with large corporations and industries, but it holds equal importance for businesses of all sizes.
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TL;DR: The article discusses the role, challenges, and opportunities for small and large businesses in sustainability. Small businesses can start with focused initiatives and use local green networks for sustainability, despite financial and expertise limitations. Large businesses, while dealing with complex supply chains, can utilise their resources to drive sustainable innovation and engage with stakeholders. Regardless of size, all businesses are key in contributing to a sustainable economy.

Both small and large businesses have unique roles to play in the global sustainability picture, and each faces its own set of challenges and opportunities when it comes to implementing sustainable practices. In this article, we will explore these differences, challenges, and strategies, providing a comprehensive view of sustainability across the business spectrum.

Sustainability in Small Businesses

In the world of small businesses, sustainability can often seem like a buzzword that belongs only to the domain of larger corporations. But small businesses, with their nimble structures and close community ties, can lead the charge in sustainable practices in ways larger businesses cannot.

small business meeting image


Small businesses often face several barriers when it comes to implementing sustainable practices. These can include limited financial resources, lack of dedicated sustainability staff, and a lack of knowledge about where to start. Small businesses may also face pressures to prioritise short-term financial health over long-term sustainability goals.


Despite the challenges, the opportunities for small businesses in the realm of sustainability are vast. With smaller and flatter organisational structures, small businesses can often make quicker decisions and innovate more rapidly than their larger counterparts. They are often more deeply embedded in their local communities, which can lead to more sustainable sourcing practices and stronger community ties.


Start Small and Focus: Small businesses can initiate their journey into sustainability by focusing on one area at a time. This approach makes the task less daunting and allows for the accumulation of quick wins. This might involve reducing waste, increasing energy efficiency, or implementing green procurement policies.

Measure Emissions: Even for small businesses, understanding emissions is an essential first step towards sustainability. Several online tools and software can help small businesses measure their emissions, including energy use, waste, and even commuting. Once they understand their emissions, they can create targeted strategies to reduce them.

Join Local Green Networks: Participating in local green business networks can provide valuable knowledge, resources, and support. This can be particularly beneficial when it comes to understanding local regulations, gaining access to funding for green initiatives, and learning from the experiences of other small businesses.

Engage with Your Community: Small businesses often have strong ties to their local communities. These ties can be leveraged to build a sustainability program that benefits not just the business, but also the community around it. This might involve sourcing locally, creating jobs, or contributing to local environmental projects.

Sustainability in Large Businesses

When it comes to large businesses, sustainability is no longer an optional extra – it's an essential part of doing business in the 21st century.

large business office


Large businesses face their own unique set of challenges in implementing sustainable practices. These can include more complex supply chains, larger environmental footprints, and the need to balance the demands of various stakeholders. Large businesses also face increased scrutiny from consumers, investors, and regulators about their environmental and social performance.


However, large businesses also have significant opportunities to drive sustainability. With their larger resources and wider influence, they can drive innovation, influence policy, and set industry standards. Many large businesses are already leading the way in areas such as renewable energy, circular economy models, and sustainable supply chains.


Develop a Clear Sustainability Strategy: Large businesses should start by developing a comprehensive sustainability strategy. This strategy should clearly define what sustainability means for the business, set measurable goals, and outline the steps needed to achieve these goals.

Measure and Report on Emissions: Large businesses should measure and report their emissions across all scopes – Scope 1 (direct emissions), Scope 2 (indirect emissions from purchased energy), and Scope 3 (all other indirect emissions). Many large businesses are already required to report their emissions under various regulations, but even those that aren't should consider voluntary reporting. Reporting emissions not only helps identify areas for reduction but also builds trust with customers, investors, and the public.

Invest in Sustainable Technologies: Large businesses often have the resources to invest in sustainable technologies. This might involve renewable energy, energy-efficient equipment, or technologies that reduce waste. Such investments can not only reduce a company's environmental impact but also lead to significant cost savings over time.

Engage with Stakeholders: Large businesses should engage with a wide range of stakeholders about their sustainability efforts. This includes not just customers and investors, but also employees, suppliers, regulators, and the communities in which they operate. Stakeholder engagement can provide valuable feedback, build trust, and even generate new ideas for improving sustainability.

In the face of accelerating climate change, a sustainable future is no longer a choice but an imperative. Businesses, regardless of their size, play a crucial role in driving this transition. While the challenges that small and large businesses face may differ, their end goal is the same: to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a sustainable economy.

Regardless of your business’s size or sector, FutureTracker can accelerate your path to sustainability. Our ground breaking platform offers the comprehensive, user-friendly sustainability tools you need to transform your company. You can learn more about FutureTracker by requesting our free information packet by clicking here.

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