French-speaking businesses lagging behind in sustainability

French-speaking businesses lagging behind in sustainability
French-speaking businesses lagging behind in sustainability

Where are French-speaking businesses in their relationship to sustainability? The Fédération des Entreprises Romandes (FER) surveyed nearly 400 SMEs and the results are not excellent. Details with Philippe Fleury.

The findings of the survey conducted by the FER are clear. 70% of the companies questioned do not have a sustainability budget, and half of them, mostly SMEs, have not implemented an energy efficiency approach. A desire to act is felt, but actions seem to be confined to the issue of waste.

The main obstacles put forward in the survey are lack of time and lack of money. Philippe Fleury, general director of FER Geneva, is not surprised by the results: “The real question for entrepreneurs is ‘What should I do and when should I do it?'”.

At a time when customers are increasingly pushing SMEs to act sustainably, the head of the economic federation recalls: “Companies are lost, it is important to make this diagnosis.”

A long way

Currently, the main sustainability risks identified by the companies surveyed are reputation and legal issues. The real impact on the climate only concerns 30% of them in Geneva. Philippe Fleury underlines the distinction between large companies which took the path to sustainability a long time ago and smaller SMEs: “The vast economic fabric in French-speaking Switzerland is made up of SMEs with fewer than 50 employees. 80% of them say they want to do something. The same number also say they have not started,” indicates the boss of the FER, specifying that he wants to help them on the path to sustainability.

This Tuesday the general assembly of the FER is being held. Philippe Fleury specifies that he will not pass the soap on to companies about these “not excellent” sustainability results. On the contrary, he will tell them that the FER is at their side to best support them in this process.

The general director of FER Geneva does not forget the recent past of the economic world: “We must see the reality of these companies. They went through a two-year Covid crisis where the main concern was to survive and get paid.”

Concrete action modules

The FER plans to deploy concrete aid for French-speaking businesses. Consulting in foresight and sustainability with action modules are notably on the program. Four axes are favored.

First, awareness and training, both for employees and managers, are planned. Then, an inventory allowing monitoring more adapted to the reality of each company is considered. Greenhouse gas balance, waste management and mobility plan are also part of the concrete measures imagined by the FER. Finally, emphasis is placed on inter-company exchange and communication to share the solutions found.

The road remains long and crowded, but Philippe Fleury sees a good start. He points out that companies generally have a budget not exceeding 10,000.- per year for sustainability issues. The general director emphasizes that we should therefore not expect revolutions, but that it is possible “to start taking useful first steps”.

If Geneva remains statistically more sensitive to these climatic issues compared to its French-speaking counterparts, Philippe Fleury does not see a gulf between Geneva and the rest of French-speaking Switzerland. “It’s more of a gulf between small businesses, SMEs, and large businesses,” he analyzes.

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