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Press release The ecological transformation will not succeed without small and medium-sized enterprises

Researchers recommend that policy-makers always consider the idiosyncrasies of SMEs

"Small and medium-sized enterprises play an important part in the ecological transformation. Many of them are already investing in sustainable technologies and in renewable energies," explained Parliamentary State Secretary Michael Kellner at the opening of the International Roundtable on SMEs in Berlin today. At the event, internationally renowned entrepreneurship researchers discussed their current research with representatives from policy and business.

In her introduction, Prof Dr Friederike Welter (IfM Bonn/University of Siegen) emphasised the contribution of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to society and the economy in Germany: "Every entrepreneurial activity generates income by creating jobs. Family entrepreneurs, who feel themselves as being particularly responsible for their company and their staff, also have a stabilising effect in times of crisis. They often drive forward the implementation of ecological goals based on their individual values".

Dr Christian Dienes (IfM Bonn) says that periods of heat, heavy rains, floods, and unusually strong storms have also contributed to entrepreneurs' awareness of climate risks in their value chain. They are taking action: they are not only modifying existing products and services or innovating them in a new way, but are already focusing on achieving greater autonomy in their energy and water supply.

Hurdles for SMEs to consider

According to Dr Céline Kauffmann (OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities), there are still hurdles in the ecological transformation process that prevent SMEs from becoming more sustainable. "These include limited access to resources – including finance – and uncertainty about the business case of going green" says the OECD representative. Similarly, Dr Harald Wieser (Austrian Institute for SME  Research) noted that climate policy still pays insufficient attention to the heterogeneity and idiosyncrasies of small and medium-sized enterprises. Business policy is therefore playing a particularly important role in the transformation of ambitious climate policy goals into the diverse everyday realities of companies.

Digital technologies can support ecological transformation

Prof Dr Effie Kesidou (Leeds University Business School & Enterprise Research Centre/UK) believes that it is much easier for entrepreneurs to innovate with regard to environmental sustainability if they use digital technologies and competencies. This was found by a British survey.

The importance of digital transformation in the Covid-19 pandemic, in general, was highlighted by Prof Dr Erik Stam (University of Utrecht/Netherlands) who shows that regions with strong entrepreneurial ecosystems led the digital transformation. Also, Prof Dr Paul Steffens (University of Adelaide/Australia) confirmed in his presentation that crises strengthen the ability of entrepreneurs to handle crises. He showed this in how entrepreneurs in Denmark handled the economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.