Sustainability: Long-term success is built on sustainable business development

Sustainability is a success factor. How SMEs can establish the right position.

According to the 2020 SME Study from Credit Suisse, environmental sustainability will remain essential in the future for most SMEs. For companies, that means taking action now. We have outlined below why companies are advised to focus on sustainability.

The COVID-19 crisis boosts demand for sustainability

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down. While the lockdown placed everyday restrictions on all of us, the reduction in carbon emissions during this period in particular underscored the direct relationship between our actions and climate change.

This heightened awareness has provided more food for thought to the sustainability debate. Voices from politics, business, and society are demanding that we take a cue from the reductions during the pandemic and get back to business in an environmentally friendly manner.

SMEs know that sustainability is a success factor

Swiss companies are on the same page as well. Many entrepreneurs have realized the need for more sustainable practices and understand that this is a potential success factor for their SMEs.

At the same time, they must respond quickly to changes on the market and establish the right position. After all, preparedness means being able to comply with legal requirements more quickly, thereby generating a possible competitive advantage.

Seven factors for greater ecological sustainability

For SMEs to establish a strategic position in terms of sustainability, they must be familiar with the factors that influence the market environment.

The general framework has been set by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. These goals call upon all member states – Switzerland included – to help secure sustainable development on an economic, social, and environmental level. There are seven goals with particular relevance when it comes to environmental sustainability:

  • Ensure availability and sustainable management of clean water and sanitation for all.
  • Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and clean energy for all.
  • Make cities and communities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.
  • Ensure responsible consumption and production patterns.
  • Take urgent action to combat climate change and its effects.
  • Conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.
  • Protect, restore, and promote the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.

Government regulation and consumer demand influence SMEs

At the government level, companies are subject to public policy (such as requirements and bans) and economic tools (such as carbon emissions tax, emission trading system) derived from the SDGs. Although the legal requirements may seem restrictive for SMEs at first, entrepreneurs can also see them as an opportunity for innovation.

After all, developing sustainable processes and products is rewarded, including by customers. Customers are becoming more environmentally conscious and are demanding more sustainably produced products. Companies that can fill this demand have a definite advantage.

What SMEs can do for a more sustainable business

Click on the symbols to learn more about specific recommendations for your SME to enhance its sustainability efforts in this area.

EGO Movement: How a Swiss SME is managing the crisis sustainably

Many SMEs recognized the trend towards more sustainability during the COVID-19 crisis, and Swiss e-bike manufacturer EGO Movement was no exception. "I think the crisis will have a long-term effect on mobility," said Daniel Meyer, CEO of EGO Movement, in an interview with the authors of the SME Study, adding: "People are thinking more now about their day-to-day mobility habits." He says choosing an e-bike is a win/win situation. After all, when customers choose an e-bike, they save money compared to using a car while also benefiting their own health and the environment.

EGO Movement's sustainable business model is right on the money, literally: There is a growing demand for e-bikes. "In the future, we hope to benefit from this trend shift and expand our business," said Meyer. Environmental efforts are a success factor. Just ask EGO Movement!

Sustainable business is the key to success

While environmental considerations have already become more important for many companies, the pandemic has pushed the sustainability trend a step further. SMEs must now stay ahead of the trend.

After all, the sooner that Swiss companies focus on sustainability trends – for instance, in the segments of nutrition, housing, and mobility – the sooner they will be able to keep up on an international scale and use their expertise to secure a competitive advantage in the future.