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Press release Limited resources, bureaucracy and a shortage of skilled labour limit SMEs' ecological efforts

Digitisation plays a vital role in the transformation to a more sustainable economy

More than three out of four small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) expect their businesses to be affected by climate change's consequences, including extreme weather events and the transition to a more sustainable economy. Among large enterprises, almost 90 % share this view. More than 1,300 executives participated in the survey for the study "Adapting to Climate Change: Specific Challenges for SMEs".

Possible preventive measures depend on resources

"There is hardly any enterprise in Germany questioning climate risks. However, the extent to which they take concrete measures depends, on the one hand, on prior experiences gained with the consequences of climate change, and, on the other hand, on the available resources," reports Hans-Jürgen Wolter, principal of the study. Smaller production volumes prevent SMEs from reducing the risks of supply chain disruptions in the same way as large enterprises, which may increase their engagement in supplier diversification. Additionally, constructional adaptation measures represent fixed costs of production that disproportionately burden smaller enterprises. Primarily, enterprises use digital solutions to, for example, secure operational knowledge against extreme weather events’ consequences and to visualise energy consumption. This is followed by making enterprises more self-sufficient in energy and water supply, for example, through using photovoltaics.

"At the same time, bureaucratic burdens, lengthy approval processes and the shortages of skilled labour are slowing down the efforts of small and medium-sized enterprises to operate even more sustainably. If the policy were to make things easier in this respect, it would be much more helpful for small and medium-sized enterprises than initiating further financial support measures or information campaigns," explains Hans-Jürgen Wolter.