The ecological transition of lagging SMEs, in spite of themselves – Economy

Even when there seems to be a will to lead their company towards the ecological transition, SMEs reluctantly admit that they are “bad students” in this field, due to obstacles intrinsically linked to their activity.

“We have a lot of things to get going,” admits Thibault Nicodeme, 37, who came on behalf of his helicopter air rescue company during a day dedicated to the ecological transition of SMEs and ETIs, organized last week by Bpifrance, in Lyon.

Nearly 700 business leaders came to share their doubts and their experience through “masterclasses” and fun exercises.

For SAF Aerogroup, the verdict of the day aimed at establishing a tailored environmental diagnosis is clear: well below average, especially in its sustainable innovation policies in its products and services.

“It is true that the environmental impact” is “seen as secondary” because “we already have a strong positive impact through our rescue, health, emergency activities…”, justifies the head of this company based in Savoy. “But today, we’re still trying to think about it.”

While 80% of SME managers see climate as a major issue, many say they don’t know how to start their green transition.

France had 3.9 million small and medium-sized businesses in 2018, according to the latest INSEE figures, and its efforts are crucial to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, as set out in the European Green Deal.

But according to a study by Bpifrance, while 80% of SME managers see climate as a major issue, many say they don’t know how to start their green transition.

Longer, more restrictive, other workouts…

Olivier Dereu, 44, director of QHSE at Attila, a roof maintenance and upkeep company, plans to carry out a “carbon assessment”, mandatory every four years from 2010 for companies with more than 500 employees. The objective: to measure the ecological impact of all the company’s flows.

The 40-year-old admits that the company’s 300 vehicles generate “a lot” of pollution and that the resin-based products used can release volatile organic compounds.

Therefore, the company is trying to be more “eco-friendly”, in particular, by stopping using torches for waterproofing.

“Certainly it takes more time, it’s more restrictive and it requires training because our business doesn’t lend itself to this kind of innovation… But why not try to do more? wonders the representative of this company based in Montargis (Loiret), knowing that “our customers ask us to advance in environmental matters”.

“The transition is now”

Isabelle Raes believes in this “theory of small gestures”. She switched to electricity for her tourist train business in 2017. But she, too, faces obstacles.

“Some electric trains are not powerful enough for certain types of circuits, for example when there are steep slopes,” explains France Voguette’s administration and finance manager. “We are stuck, unlike the old operators who use more powerful diesel-powered trains,” adds the 46-year-old businessman.

It also regrets that tourist trains are not affected by the ecological bonus of 30,000 euros for the purchase of heavy vehicles, established by the France Relance plan, to support the necessary changes.

Without being discouraged: “on the contrary, because the transition is now and we have to commit ourselves”, he says.

In fact, the latest report by UN climate experts (IPCC) states that without a “rapid” reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors, it will not be possible to limit global warming.

“An alarming evaluation”, warns Anne Guérin, director of financing, the network and the Climate Plan of Bpifrance.

“The transition is really a matter of survival for companies because today, although all customers are not willing to pay the additional cost of having a green offer, tomorrow it will be essential,” he says.

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