New research from The Entrepreneurs Network, in partnership with The Enterprise Trust, finds the majority of entrepreneurs believe the shift to a greener economy represents an opportunity for business and a boost for the economy.

The majority of small and medium-sized businesses believe there are financial opportunities in the shift to a greener economy and that they personally can benefit from them, according to new Opinium polling commissioned for a new report by The Entrepreneurs Network and the Enterprise Trust.

The findings from the report, Green Entrepreneurship, challenge the historic assumption that pursuing sustainability is a hindrance to businesses and the economy.

It argues that harnessing the innovative products, ideas, and practices devised by Britain’s flourishing entrepreneurial ecosystem will be critical to overcoming the environmental challenges facing the planet, while also providing an economic boost and positioning the UK at the forefront of the green growth sectors of the near future.

The survey reveals that businesses already have commercial as well as ethical incentives to ‘go green’. Entrepreneurs report that consumers and potential employees are seeking out green businesses.

Half of all businesses agreed that their customers expected them to take steps to be more environmentally responsible and 57% agree that employees increasingly want to work in businesses that are seen as environmentally responsible.

SMEs are acting on this information: over half (54%) have taken steps to become more environmentally friendly over the past few years, though nearly half (47%) believe they could be doing more.

However, consumer and employee pressure alone will not be sufficient to meet major environmental challenges. The report argues that environmental problems are driven by market failures, where governments have not sufficiently made polluters bear responsibility for the full costs of their actions, nor sufficiently rewarded those who develop solutions to environmental challenges

Businesses are split on how well they think the government is doing in terms of helping them to profit by addressing environmental problems – most (38%) think it is doing neither well or badly, while slightly more think it is doing badly (30%) than well (24%).

Meanwhile, equity investment is flowing into green businesses. Data from Beauhurst reveals that between 2015 and 2019 equity investment into startups described as ‘sustainable’ has more than trebled (204%), while ‘environmental’ businesses saw a 94% increase in equity raised.

Green Entrepreneurship

Green Entrepreneurship showcases the entrepreneurs who are driving the sustainability revolution. They include Electron co-founder Jo-Jo Hubbard, whose platform makes it easier to manage demand for intermittent renewables such as wind and solar, and Too Good To Go co-founder Jamie Crummie whose business works with restaurants, cafes, and retailers to reduce food waste.

Precision agriculture, which uses technologies such as drones to monitor crops to reduce pesticide and fertiliser use while increasing crop yields, has seen a 3,650% increase in funds raised over five years – with £68m raised in 2019. Similarly, urban farming startups have seen a 540% increase in equity investments over the past five years.

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