Green Action Plan for SMEs: turning environmental challenges into business opportunities
The European Commission adopted today a Communication Green Action Plan (GAP) for SMEs: Enabling SMEs to turn environmental challenges into business opportunities. The Action Plan presents a series of SME-oriented actions proposed at European level to help exploit the business opportunities that the transition to a green economy offers, by improving resource efficiency of European SMEs, supporting green entrepreneurship, exploiting the opportunities of greener value chains, and facilitating market access for green SMEs.
Helping SMEs make the most of the transition to a green economy
The Green Action Plan sets out a series of objectives and corresponding actions which can be grouped in five sections:
1. Greening SMEs for more competitiveness and sustainability
Improving resource efficiency in SMEs offers enormous potential for the reduction of production costs and for productivity gains. A better use of resources is calculated to represent an overall savings potential of €630 billion per year for European industry.
2. Green entrepreneurship for the companies of the future
Preventing environmental damage and moving towards a low carbon economy is a societal challenge which also offers new business opportunities for enterprises that bring green products and services to the market. SMEs need a favourable business environment in which green ideas can be easily developed, financed and brought to the market.
3. Opportunities for SMEs in a greener value chain
Re-manufacturing, repair, maintenance, recycling and eco-design have a great potential to become drivers of economic growth and job creation while, at the same time, making a significant contribution to addressing environmental challenges. SMEs and entrepreneurs need a supportive environment to move towards a circular economy (see IP/14/763).
4. Access to the markets for green SMEs
The EU’s international commitments in areas such as climate change cooperation or neighbourhood policies offer concrete scope for European SMEs with green expertise to gain access to new markets. However, 87% of European SMEs sell their green technologies, products or services only in national markets. A more supportive framework and more international cooperation are required in order to help SMEs successfully integrate into global value chains.
The Green Action Plan for SMEs has been widely supported by EU Member State administrations and SME stakeholders in consultations on the future of SME policy and in meetings with the Network of SME Envoys and business organisations. It is therefore important to implement the GAP thoroughly, so as to ensure an impact across Europe for the benefit of SMEs.
Resource efficiency is one of the main drivers of companies’ competitiveness since European manufacturing firms spend, on average, 40% of their costs on raw materials, with energy and water pushing this to 50% of total manufacturing costs, to be compared to a share of only 20% for labour costs.
The March 2014 European Council highlighted that Europe needs a strong and competitive industrial base, in terms of both production and investment, as a key driver for economic growth and jobs. The European Council further called for sustained efforts to moderate the energy costs borne by energy end-users, in particular through sustained investment in energy efficiency and demand-side management all along the value chain and at the R& D stage. The Small Business Act (SBA) highlighted that the EU and Member States should enable SMEs to turn environmental challenges into opportunities. The Green Action Plan aims to contribute to the re-industrialisation of Europe advocated by the European Industrial Renaissance Communication (see IP/14/42) and supported by the European Council, by enhancing SMEs competitiveness and supporting green business developments across all European regions. The Green Action Plan complements the Green Employment Initiative (see IP/14/765), which proposes a roadmap for supporting green jobs creation across the EU, and with the Circular Economy Package and Waste Target Review (see IP/14/763).