Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been encouraged to adopt sustainable green procurement and clean technologies as a way of reducing levels of pollution and also to harness any business opportunity that may rise.
Globally, there is a growing evidence that SMEs play a vital role in national economic development of countries and the sector has become key driver of economic growth.
According to statistics from World Bank, SMEs play a major role in economic development as it represents about 90 percent of businesses and more than 50 percent of employment world-wide.
It is widely known that the world is significantly under siege from an extensive array of environmental challenges and greening economy paradigm especially the SME sector.
The sector is regarded as a necessary player to overcome challenges of sustainability that the world is facing today.
Sustainable green business is an enterprise functioning in a capacity where no negative impact is made on the local or global environment, the community as well as the economy.
A green business will also engage in forward-thinking policies for environmental concerns and policies affecting human rights.
Ranging from climate change, waste generation, hazardous chemicals and water pollution, SMEs businesses are confronted with choices and have a big role to play in halting the decline in environmental quality.
Speaking with The Herald Business yesterday, Energy and Climate Change consultant under Business Consulting Associates Company Dr Dingane Sithole, said Zimbabwe’s economy is SMEs driven, hence the promotion of green procurement to the sector is vital for sustainable development.
“It is important at the time when a growing number of large companies nation-wide recognise the advantages of cleaner production in terms of reduced costs of resources, environmental compliance and customer relations, especially in growing SMEs sector.
“Reducing the environmental impact of small and medium-sized enterprises in both manufacturing and services is a key success factor in greening the economy.
“Improving the environmental performance is also a significant business opportunity for SMEs themselves as important suppliers of goods and services,” he said.
Dr Sithole chronicled that the uptake and promotion of green procurement for SMEs in Zimbabwe is still low, posing growing threats to the environment.
“SMEs in Zimbabwe play a critical role in the economy as suppliers of goods and services across all sectors. The sector presents a huge opportunity since over 75 percent of the workforce in Zimbabwe is employed in SMEs.
“However, sustainable procurement is still very limited owing to a number of challenges faced by the SMEs in Zimbabwe.
“The consideration for social and environmental issues during procurement is, therefore, quite low in most SMEs,” he said.
Dr Sithole furthermore expressed that beyond achieving environmental compliance, the transition of SMEs to sustainable practices in both manufacturing and services is key to the successful adoption of the green growth model.
“The ‘green transformation’ is also a significant business opportunity for SMEs themselves as important actors in green technology innovation and production.
“However, the willingness and capability of SMEs to adopt sustainable practices and seize green business opportunities generally face size-related resource constraints, skill deficit and knowledge limitations.
“According to the survey many SMEs are willing to invest in more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly processes, but they require reliable partners in financing their investments and the right regulatory framework.
However, they often face obstacles in getting access to finance, with banks being reluctant to fund such investments and lacking the specialised staff needed to evaluate SME projects,” Dr Sithole has said.
He said that environmental sustainability criterion should consider resources conservation and efficiency, as well as pollution prevention in order to reduce the burden of environmental externalities affecting SMEs.
Zvimba Rural District head of Procurement Management Unity Noma Mudengezi also said SMEs must buy in the idea of green procurement and gradually implement standards that promote greening their activities for sustainable growth.
“SMEs form quite a reasonable size of organisations that provide goods and services in the country thus if they go green, their contribution will likely bring a positive change towards inclusive growth.
“However, if they do not have information on the importance or do not buy in the idea of greening, it may hamper the progress and efforts being made in fostering inclusive growth,” she said.
Miss Mudengezi said although the individual environmental footprint of SMEs is low, they constitute a vast majority of businesses.
“Broadly, green SMEs contribute to the protection of the climate, environment, and biodiversity through their products, services, and business practices.
“But, they do so in different way; some SMEs focus on reducing the environmental footprint of their production process such as resource-efficient processes while others focus on green outputs and offer green products and services includes renewable energy products.”