What SMEs need to know

Whether you work in an office or warehouse, operate equipment or have a fleet of vehicles, you need energy to power your business. While you may feel your energy use is inconsequential, the collective impact of small- to medium-size enterprises (SMEs) on the environment means every business has a role to play in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with energy use. And, as more consumers and governments pay attention to the amount and type of energy businesses use, becoming more energy efficient can have a positive impact on your bottom line.


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How does energy affect climate change?

Consumers, governments and businesses of every size are making commitments related to climate change, many pledging to achieve net zero emissions by a target date. Globally, the use of energy represents, by far, the largest source of GHG emissions from human activities. In fact, about two-thirds of GHG emissions are linked to burning fossil fuels for energy to be used for heating, electricity, transport and industry. As such, energy efficiency is critical to solving the climate crisis and one of the most cost-effective ways to address climate change.



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How does energy efficiency apply to your business?

From your buildings to your delivery trucks to your choice of paper, there are likely many opportunities across your business to reduce your energy usage or use energy more efficiently. As with most aspects of climate change, small actions can make a big difference—not only to your environmental impact, but to your energy bills, customer relationships and trade opportunities.

Your workplace

Making changes to your lighting, heating, cooling and employee behaviours combined can make your workplace notably more energy efficient.

Your supply chain

By choosing suppliers, who are close by and that use local resources, you can reduce emissions and energy usage.

Your international trade partners

As more countries get behind climate initiatives and set targets for energy and emissions, Canadian businesses will need to be ready with practices that align with international standards.

Trade with Europe has forced some [Canadian] firms to have a statement on greenhouse gas emissions to be part of a sustainable supply chain

Marianne Griffith  —  executive director of the London Environmental Network (LEN)


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How does energy efficiency affect exporters?


Business with international partners

European Union (EU) law requires all large and listed companies (except listed micro-enterprises) to disclose information on the impacts of their activities on people and the environment. The laws apply to non-EU companies that do business in Europe, including businesses within an EU company’s supply chain.

Worldwide attention to energy usage

More than 70 countries around the world have set a target to reach net zero emissions—the Paris Agreement calls for this goal to be reached by 2050. Worldwide improvements in energy use are needed to achieve this target, placing the energy usage of all businesses under a microscope.

Shipping and packaging across the globe

When doing business overseas, the way you transport your products and the packaging you use can make a difference in the amount of energy your business—and supply chain—consumes. As you examine ways to improve your energy efficiency, consider the way you ship and package the goods you export.


The Business Case > Benefits and opportunities for your company 

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Reduces your energy bills

Simply put, more energy use means more expenses. In the past year, many businesses have also seen significantly higher energy bills due to rising energy costs. By doing things, like upgrading your windows, switching to energy-efficient appliances and turning off the lights after work, you can pay less in energy costs and direct more of your money into your core business activities. 

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Funding is available to support your efforts

Federal, provincial and territorial governments offer incentives to organizations looking to make their businesses more energy efficient. There are also a number of programs and incentives offered by energy companies and suppliers, making it easier and more cost-efficient for you to make upgrades.

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Increases consumer loyalty

A 2021 Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) survey of more than 1,000 Canadians found that 34% of consumers consider the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions—and 80% of consumers are willing to pay more to reduce their environmental impact. Reducing your energy usage and switching to clean energy when possible—and letting consumers know about it—can make your business more attractive to buyers. 

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Boosts employee engagement and retention

Employees today—particularly, younger people—want to work for companies aligned with their values and will seek out organizations that have commitments in place to reduce their GHG emissions and monitor their energy efficiency.

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Opens opportunities for contracts

Whether you’re doing business with organizations in Canada, the U.S. or overseas, larger enterprises are becoming more vocal about their emissions goals and energy targets. As such, they seek suppliers and vendors who have similar goals and commitments. In some cases, they require businesses within their supply chain to report on their emissions and energy usage.


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What you can do

Becoming a more energy-efficient business doesn’t need to be an exhaustive or expensive undertaking. The best way to get started is by assessing your energy use. While you can hire a professional to conduct an energy audit (again, this doesn’t need to be expensive), you can also evaluate your business yourself.

By gathering and reviewing your energy bills, you can identify your peak daily energy use and find areas of opportunity to conserve energy. From there, you can assess your biggest contributors such as 

Whether you’re just starting to understand your energy consumption or looking for ways to make your operations more energy efficient, taking action can reduce your energy bills while making your business more attractive to employees, customers and partners—at home and around the world. 

Questions to consider

  • Do you/your employees turn off building lights at the end of the day? 
  • Is your equipment drawing power when not in use? 
  • Are your appliances ready for an upgrade to more efficient models? 
  • Are your thermostats programmed effectively?   



Take action

Use EDC’s Energy Efficiency Checklist to discover simple and cost-effective ways to become a more energy-efficient business.


Also in this series

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Date modified: 2023-11-23