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3 ways smaller businesses make a bigger impact


Smiling black man wearing an apron in his restaurant

There’s power in numbers. And to say that Canada’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have numbers is an understatement. These businesses:

  • Employ 70% of Canada’s workforce.1
  • Represent 98% of all businesses in the country.2

That’s power. SMEs touch more lives and employ more people than big businesses as a group. You, and entrepreneurs like you, have an opportunity to combat climate change, promote diversity, and make plans for a cleaner, greener economy that benefits everyone. Whether you’re a team of four or 400, you’re part of something big.

Here’s why small businesses will drive the future of a sustainable economy.

You’re nimble

Big companies can’t turn on a dime because change takes time on a large or global scale. On the other hand, smaller businesses can pivot fast because you don’t have to worry about the reaction of public shareholders to novel or ambitious plans.

You may never have the kind of research and development budgets that big businesses enjoy but you’re free to innovate in big and small ways whenever you see an opportunity. This might mean finding a new way to power your operation, installing smart technology like light sensors and thermostats, or switching to electric vehicles for deliveries. Or, you could innovate in a major way that becomes the new industry standard, such as alternative packaging or shipping methods that help everyone become more sustainable.

You have people power

It’s hard to imagine a Canadian who doesn’t interact with small businesses. Even the 30% of people who go to work for a big business will likely buy products or services from a business like yours. This makes small and medium-sized businesses vital to a sustainable economy. Everything you do matters on an individual basis and collectively. When SMEs start to reduce emissions, recycle more, and get more involved in a circular economy, the green benefits ripple through the entire country.

For example, if every SME were to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels (a very big business) then our national carbon footprint might go down. Or, imagine that every SME was outfitted with energy-saving technologies such as heat pumps and triple-glazed windows. That would immediately reduce energy consumption and lower our carbon emissions everywhere.

You have the power to make change happen because you have the power of the people behind you.

You fill pipelines and serve workers

Maybe you don’t make automobiles, office towers, or airplanes but there’s a very good chance your company fills the parts pipelines of big businesses or serves the needs of their workers. If you supply one of the 30,000 parts that go into a single car in Canada, or you feed workers in your restaurant, or you stock work boots in your store, you’ve got a chance to make a difference in how big companies manage their environmental footprint.

As a supplier to big businesses, SMEs that find more efficient ways to make, package, and ship things to their customers are helping to reduce the environmental consequences upstream. And this is not just good for the environment. It’s good for business. Large companies value suppliers who look for ways to help them achieve their environmental goals.

Putting power to use

Small businesses are vital in every effort to create a more sustainable economy. The question is, what can everyone do, right now, to effect change?

  1. Create a culture of innovation where everyone is encouraged to bring ideas forward and be on the lookout for ways to do things better.
  2. Know how to get the money you might need to seize an opportunity. This can be as easy as setting up a line of credit ahead of time.
  3. Allocate as much time and money as you can afford to research ways you can reduce your company’s environmental impact.

1 Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and Government of Canada, “Key Small Business Statistics — 2020.”

2 Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and Government of Canada, “Key Small Business Statistics — 2020,”

December 10, 2020, Key Small Business Statistics — 2020

Learn more about good business practices

Why helping your community is good for business
3 low-cost strategies to make your business more sustainable
How an Ontario grocer turned zero waste into profit

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