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Dev-Bank Wales MBO


9 August 2023

Two in Five SME’s Regard having a Sustainability Expert on their Board as “Essential”

A survey of over 1,000 small business leaders asked respondents about what they regarded as essential roles on the board of directors to guide the strategy of the business.

The results from the Novuna Business Finance survey showed that two in five (40%) business leaders regarded having a sustainability expert as essential, second only to a board director with financial expertise (42%).

Small business leaders were more likely to value sustainability expertise then they were other areas including marketing (38%), digital or IT (38%), operations (33%), product development (27%), or legal (26%).

The results showed that there were a number of sectors where business leaders required sustainability expertise above anything else. These included the hospitality and leisure sector (48%), real estate (50%), and manufacturing sectors (41%).  Such expertise was also particularly highly valued among larger small businesses (11-50 employees – 46%, 51-100 45%), and businesses that have been established for more than 10 years (46%).

Sustainability a key part of business strategy

From a strategic point of view, the results suggested that leaders saw sustainability as a core part of their business’s future. The research found that 92% of small business leaders could point to tangible business benefits from prioritising sustainability.

One in five (22%) business leaders said prioritising sustainability prompted them to think longer term about the business and the introduction of more innovative ways of working (18%), whilst a similar proportion (21%) reported a reduction in business costs.  Around one in six (17%) said prioritising sustainability had made them more attractive to external investors.

Among the key benefits was a significant reduction in waste, cited by 37% of business leaders, as well as overall public perception and being seen to do the right thing (34%).

Joanna Morris, Head of Marketing and Insight at Novuna Business Finance commented:

“A decade ago, a small business focusing on sustainability would have a competitive marketing edge. Today, it has become more than that. It has become paramount for all companies to integrate ESG into the core of everything they do. With the rising importance of sustainability, and the sharp increase in demand from investors, consumers, supply chain partners, government regulators, and employees, it makes sense to have sustainability experts sitting on the board of directors of a company.

“For sustainability strategy and policies to be effective, a seat at the table is only the start. In order for net zero targets to be met, and for meaningful action to take place, sustainability must be embedded into all parts of an organisation, with long-term investments and strategic partnerships. Novuna Business Finance supports organisations who are serious about sustainability, helping drive growth that is good for both the business and planet.”

Additional tables

The board of directors roles regarded to be “essential” today to guide the strategy of the business

  • Finance 42%
  • Sustainability 40%
  • Sales 39%
  • Marketing 38%
  • Digital/IT 37%
  • Health and Safety 36%
  • Operations 33%
  • Human resources 30%
  • Compliance 27%
  • Product development 27%
  • Legal 26%
  • Inclusion and diversity 21%
  • Facilities management 20%
  • Other 3%

The main benefits from prioritising sustainability within the business

  • We have reduced waste 37%
  • It feels good to be doing the right thing 34%
  • Our public image has improved 24%
  • It has prompted us to think longer-term about the business 22%
  • We have reduced our business costs 21%
  • We have an advantage over our competitors in attracting customers 18%
  • It has indirectly led to more innovative ways of working 18%
  • We have improved income 17%
  • We are more attractive to external investors 17%
  • We have revisited and improved supply chain relationships 17%
  • It has made it easier to comply with regulation 16%
  • We are able to attract and retain employees as a result 15%
  • There are tax benefits 15%
  • We have developed new services and products 14%
  • We have collaborated more with other businesses 14%
  • N/A There are no benefits to prioritizing sustainability with our business 8%


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