Healthy economy, healthy environment: CFIB members say it�s possible to have both

October 09, 2007 – Ottawa � Owners of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across Canada believe it is possible to grow the economy and protect the environment at the same time, but they need better information and less burdensome regulations from government to help them do their part, a new report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) shows.

�Operators of Canada�s small- and medium-sized businesses believe the health of the economy is strongly dependent on the health of the environment,� says Corinne Pohlmann, CFIB�s vice-president of national affairs and a co-author of the report. �But while SMEs are willing to do what they can to protect the environment, it must be balanced with how such measures will impact their business.�

According to the report, Achieving Eco-prosperity: SMEs� Perspectives on the Environment, 83 per cent of the 10,826 CFIB members surveyed say they are already taking steps to conserve energy, including reducing electricity usage and renovating their buildings. Over 70 per cent have introduced or expanded recycling at work, and about one-third use environmentally friendly products.

The majority (83 per cent) made the changes because they personally believe it is important, while about one in two consider potential cost savings and one in four take into account current regulations, employees� views and the needs of customers and suppliers.

The most important environmental issues to SMEs are recycling of materials, energy conservation and clean water/sewage. Almost half also cite climate change, while about one-third mention dumps and landfills, management of toxic waste, air pollution and forest preservation.

The survey finds that the main barriers to SMEs doing more to protect the environment are lack of information, high cost and complexity. Many business owners also say their competitiveness is hindered by the costs of environmental compliance.

�For the average SME, it is virtually impossible to learn about, and be compliant with, the countless regulatory requirements of all levels of government,� Pohlmann says.

The types of regulation most likely to affect SMEs are related to waste disposal; care and use of chemicals; transportation, handling, storage and disposal of harmful materials; and recycling. Issues around environmental standards and certification are also growing concerns.

Instead of more regulations or new taxes and penalties, two-thirds of SMEs want to see governments raise awareness of energy efficiency, and support research on alternative energy sources. About half of respondents support tax credits or rebates for energy efficiency, help for SMEs in developing environmental management plans, and enforcement of current regulations.

Based on the survey results, CFIB is making a number of recommendations to government, utilities and other stakeholders, including:

  • Enhanced communication of environmental opportunities to SMEs.
  • Ideas to simplify regulations and reduce paper burden on SMEs.

The report, which includes provincial and sectoral breakdowns, is accurate within +/- 0.9 per cent 19 times out of 20.

The report is available online at

CFIB is Canada�s largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses, representing more than 105,000 business owners who collectively employ 1.25 million Canadians and account for $75 billion in GDP.