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Introducing the Business Value of Sustainability for Small and Mid-sized Firms

| Thursday May 30th, 2013 | 1 Comment

small bizBy Graham Russell and Martha Young

Most large corporations in the U.S. and around the world have recognized the imperative to transition to a more sustainable global economic model and are reaping the business benefits of sustainability-based strategies. However, the majority of small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) are not following suit, at least in the U.S.

Why not?

SMEs, defined as those businesses with less than 500 employees, are the growth engine of the U.S. economy, traditionally accounting for most of its innovation and new job creation. An exaggeration you say? Well, consider these statistics regarding SMEs gleaned from the U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy’s website:

  • SMEs represent 99.7 percent of all U.S. employer firms
  • SMEs have contributed 67 percent of net new private sector jobs coming out of the Great Recession (2009-2011)
  • Prior to the Great Recession, SMEs contributed 64 percent of net new private sector jobs
  • SMEs represent 98 percent of all firms exporting goods
  • SMEs produce patentable innovations 16 times more frequently per employee than large enterprises

Expediting the adoption of sustainable business practices by large numbers of SMEs clearly represents a huge opportunity, not only for the companies themselves, but for the entire American economy. This is why we are launching a series of articles on TriplePundit.


Our knowledge is aimed at small and mid-sized companies and is specific to industry verticals. We are looking to share actionable information of sustainable business practices that will positively impact a firm’s economic health. The goal is to improve the fiscal strength of SMEs through waste reduction, improved operational efficiencies, enhanced corporate culture and employee wellness and numerous other sustainability-focused practices. We recognize that sustainability practices that provide measurable economic value to the manufacturing industry will be very different from those practices that provide rapid returns to banking and finance, or the professional services market. We will discuss projects and opportunities that are relatively easy to implement. We know that both time and money are premium assets to the SME.

Think of sustainability/green practices as free money. What could you do with the money saved by a 10 to 15 percent reduction in your electric bill? How about a similar reduction in your waste removal expenses? What would you gain with less employee turnover? There are a variety of opportunities that can contribute to a company’s financial viability. Our goal is to help you identify them and execute in a rapid manner.

Who we are

Graham Russell and Martha Young have teamed to research and share successful SME business sustainability information. Our data set includes case studies, recommended initiatives, resources that can help you get started, and solutions for how to overcome hurdles that may crop up.

Graham has more than 25 years of CEO experience in the environmental services industry. He currently teaches sustainable business at the University of Colorado, Denver MBA program and chairs the School’s Managing for Sustainability Advisory Council. He is also on the board of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals.

Martha has been an industry analyst and writer for well over 20 years. Her expertise is in small and mid-sized businesses, information technology and energy. She has co-authored four books, and sits on the board of two Texas-based small businesses.

Your Role

Your role is to be an active participant in the SME sustainability dialog. Comment on the blog posts; visit the Sustainability4SMEs.com website; take the survey. You will get out of this body of work as much as you put in, so share, forward and engage. We are here to support each other, and to drive the adoption of sustainable, green business practices as a key driver of innovation, competitive advantage, job creation and enhanced financial performance.

Graham Russell and Martha Young, co-founders of Sustainability4SMEs


[image credit: Tulane Public Relations: Flickr cc]

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