European commission has unveiled a plan to reduce the environmental impact of small and medium size businesses and boost their compliance with EU environmental legislation. The plan coincides with a review of EU efforts to increase the competitiveness of these firms and contains measures for increasing SMEs’ awareness of environmental issues through training and better information networks. The plan aims to increase use of EU funding available through schemes such as Life+ and the competitiveness and innovation programme. Sector association Ueapme described the plan as “well-designed” but said it did not focus sufficiently on training and criticised the lack of a specific EU budget for supporting SMEs.
This sector represents 99% of all firms in Europe, yet very few are taking steps to reduce their impact. Insufficient awareness of the environment and low staff numbers and expertise are the principal barriers to greening SMEs.
The commission is also considering making it easier for SMEs to adopt environmental management systems as part of a forthcoming revision of its eco-management scheme, Emas. Small firms would see their entry fees slashed and they would be able to share resources by registering in groups.