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EU: A new program helping SMEs become greener

Individual small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) employ less than 250 people, but the European Union’s 23 million SMEs as a whole represent about 99% of all EU enterprises and 57% of the Union’s total economic added value.

Being responsible for such a large percentage of the EU economy’s turnover the impact of SMEs on the environment is significant. Many companies are not aware of the impact their activities have on the environment and a majority actually think that their activities have little or no impact. SMEs also tend to believe that they are complying with legislation unless told otherwise. Under such circumstances the activities of SMEs may pose significant health and safety risks to workers as well as a threat to the environment. And by not integrating environmental considerations into their economic activities SMEs could lose also out on the economic benefits presented by better environmental management and eco-innovation.

Therefore, the European Commission decided to publish a new Communication, which proposes measures that will help European companies use energy and resources more efficiently. More precisely, this document proposes to create a program, which will channel financial resources towards support networks, simplify access to environmental management systems, and promote greater awareness of environmental issues among these companies.

Funding for the program’s measures will come from LIFE+ funds (€5 million for 2007-13) with additional funds to be made available through the Competitiveness and Innovation framework Program (CIP) and the Structural Funds. Several measures are already planned for 2007. A website providing information on EU environmental policy for SMEs is now available in seven languages and guides on energy efficiency, air emissions, soil and water and waste are planned, whereas s handbook on funding opportunities will also be published. (for more info )