Raising the bar: How SMEs can excel in climate reporting and accountability

By Connect Earth; HLB Affinity partner


As we acknowledge and celebrate Earth Day this year, it's a pivotal moment to reflect on the integral role small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) hold in the broader narrative of corporate responsibility.

Today's dynamic financial landscape necessitates the adoption of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles, especially for enhancing transparency and compliance in climate-related disclosures. This trend is not merely about adhering to regulations; it is fundamentally about preparing businesses to thrive in a market that increasingly values transparent and sustainable practices.

In this article, we will explore the strategic benefits of carbon measurement in ESG compliance, not just from a regulatory perspective but as a cornerstone of sustainable business practices that can drive long-term success. Additionally, we'll look into practical steps and strategies that SMEs can implement to enhance their ESG reporting and truly embody the principles of accountability and environmental stewardship. 

The strategic importance of Carbon measurement

Carbon measurement involves quantifying the amount of carbon dioxide emissions directly and indirectly produced by a business’s activities. It serves as a key metric in environmental sustainability and is central to ESG compliance. By tracking carbon emissions, companies not only adhere to increasing global standards but also gain vital data to inform their sustainability strategies.

Benefits beyond compliance

While regulatory compliance is a significant driver, the benefits of carbon measurement extend into various strategic business decisions. It helps companies identify inefficiencies in energy use, supply chain management, and product lifecycle, leading to cost reductions and improved resource management. Additionally, accurate carbon data supports companies in capitalising on incentives for sustainability initiatives and in avoiding carbon taxes or penalties.

Enhancing ESG reporting through Carbon measurement

For SMEs, integrating carbon measurement into ESG reporting is not just about data collection but about transforming that data into actionable insights. This integration helps paint a comprehensive picture of a company’s environmental impact and progress towards their sustainability goals.

Tools and technologies

Leveraging the right tools and technologies is crucial for effective carbon measurement and ESG reporting. As an example, HLB, in partnership with Connect Earth, provides a carbon accounting platform that utilises the financial data from the accounting software SMEs use to create scalable and accurate carbon emissions reports.  This integration allows for streamlined tracking of emissions data, directly within the financial workflows SMEs are already familiar with.

Data collection and estimation

For SMEs committed to enhancing their carbon emissions reporting, understanding the frameworks used for carbon accounting is essential for accurate data collection and environmental impact assessment.

Spend-Based Carbon Accounting utilises expenditure data to estimate emissions from purchased goods and services. This framework is particularly valuable for providing a broad overview of a company's carbon footprint, suitable for initial compliance and strategic planning.

Activity-Based Carbon Accounting offers a more granular analysis by quantifying emissions directly tied to specific business activities and operational data. This approach is critical for SMEs aiming to implement detailed ESG strategies and meet stringent compliance requirements. 

Practical steps for SMEs

Building on the integration of advanced tools and technologies, the first practical step for an SME is to conduct a comprehensive carbon audit. This process involves a thorough assessment of all emissions sources within the company's control and influence. By pinpointing where emissions originate, businesses can more effectively prioritise their sustainability efforts and allocate resources efficiently. This strategic evaluation is crucial in setting a solid foundation for targeted action and informed decision-making in environmental management.

Setting realistic and impactful goals

Once the audit is complete, setting clear, achievable goals for carbon reduction is essential. These goals should be aligned with both industry standards and unique business capabilities. They should also be integrated into the broader corporate strategy to ensure they contribute to overall business objectives.

Employee involvement and training

Educating and involving employees in carbon measurement and reduction strategies is vital. Training programs and workshops can help foster a culture of sustainability within the company. Engaged employees are more likely to contribute innovative ideas and support the implementation of ESG practices.

Long-term benefits of Carbon measurement

Following the strategic establishment of goals and enhanced employee engagement, the regular measurement and analysis of carbon emissions stand as a cornerstone for continuous innovation. This proactive monitoring enables companies to uncover innovative opportunities across product development, operational processes, and customer engagement strategies.

By integrating carbon metrics into the heart of business operations, organisations not only minimise their environmental impact but also distinguish themselves in the marketplace. This approach not only adheres to sustainability goals but also fosters the development of unique market offerings that resonate with environmentally conscious consumers.

Enhancing brand reputation and customer loyalty

Companies that demonstrate genuine commitment to reducing their carbon footprint can enhance their brand reputation. In an increasingly eco-conscious market, transparency in sustainability efforts attracts not only customers but also potential investors and partners who prioritise environmental stewardship.

Preparing for future regulations

With environmental regulations expected to become more stringent, proactive carbon measurement prepares SMEs to meet future standards without disruption. It positions them ahead of the curve, turning compliance into a competitive advantage.

How HLB can help

The breadth and complexity of ESG regulations and reporting can sometimes be daunting for many SMEs. However, adopting ESG principles is not only about compliance, but also prepares businesses to thrive in a market that increasingly values transparency and sustainability. Our team includes a group of ESG and sustainability advisors who can help your company navigate the nuanced challenges and opportunities in sustainability practices, ensuring your strategies are both effective and aligned with global standards.

HLB works with both SMEs and large companies across multiple sectors worldwide. Learn more about our Sustainability advisory services, and don't hesitate to contact us for more assistance.