April 18, 2022

U.S. businesses willing to change practices to reduce emissions, but need more information on how

By: Kelsey Mulcahy, Chris Hooton, Laura McGorman, JW Schneider

Addressing climate change requires immediate, systematic change and collaboration across all sectors of society: from governments and industries to individual people all over the world. Small businesses comprise a large share of the global and U.S. economies, employ nearly half of U.S. workers, and collectively account for more than half of global emissions. However, while we know there is broad public support for action to address climate change, the views of small business leaders are less understood.

Since 2016, Meta has collaborated with partners including the World Bank and OECD to conduct surveys of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to understand their perspectives, challenges, and outlooks for the future. These findings are published in the Global State of Small Business Reports and last year, we asked owners and managers of SMBs on Facebook in 14 countries and territories about their views on climate change.*

Businesses worry about impacts of climate change

More than four in 10 SMB owners and managers in countries surveyed are very or somewhat worried about the impacts of climate change on their business. The global level of concern is high, but there are significant differences in sentiment across countries. Worry is highest in Spain, Portugal, Taiwan, and Italy, and lowest in the U.S. and Belgium.

In the U.S., worry among SMBs is generally lower compared to other parts of the world. Just over a third of U.S. SMBs said they were very or somewhat worried about the impacts of climate change on their businesses. In all but two U.S. states, a majority said they were not very or not at all worried. While sizable proportions of U.S. SMBs are worried about the impacts of climate change, the level of worry we observe suggests climate change may be a less salient concern domestically compared to other challenges American small businesses are currently facing.

Willingness to change business practices

Despite their relatively lower rate of worry compared to other countries, six in 10 SMBs in the U.S. said that they probably or definitely would be willing to make a change to their business practices to reduce climate change or have already done so. Oregon and Indiana were most likely to say they had already made changes to their business practices to reduce climate change, and nearly half of businesses in New York said they would be willing to make a change. On the other hand, SMBs in Tennessee, North Carolina, Arizona, and Georgia said they would be unlikely to implement changes to mitigate climate impacts of their activities.

However, there’s a clear informational deficit: nearly one in five U.S. SMBs say they need more information to decide whether or not they would be willing to make changes to their businesses to reduce climate change. This highlights an opportunity for educational campaigns to show business leaders the challenges presented by climate change, actionable steps they can take to address it, and resources they have at their disposal.

Barriers to reducing carbon emissions

Concern and willingness to act are only parts of fostering action on climate change. Small businesses will need additional support to make changes to their business practices to reduce carbon emissions. To help determine what interventions may be the most useful for the four in 10 U.S. small businesses that are open to making changes but have yet to do so, we asked them to tell us about the barriers they face. The most cited problem was a lack of knowledge of how to reduce emissions, reported by a third of U.S. small businesses. Operating costs and production or transportation costs were also common barriers.

Climate change will compound challenges already being faced by a small business sector that is still recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only by understanding how small business leaders view challenges and opportunities related to climate change, can we help make this sector more resilient and make faster progress on global climate goals.

We know that the economic effects of climate change are already being felt by many; however, business leaders may not tie the impacts of climate change back to their own businesses or know what to do about it. We can help bridge that gap in understanding by helping to voice the opinions and thoughts of SMB leaders to policymakers designing interventions, as well as by expanding climate education. To meet this need, Meta is leveraging the scale of its platform and partnerships with the SMB community to surface timely information to businesses on actions they can take to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

For researchers interested in using this survey data or other data sets provided by Data for Good at Meta, please contact dataforgood@fb.com. Our publicly available data sets can also be found on theHumanitarian Data Exchange.

*The survey was fielded between July 19 and August 7, 2021, and analyses include operational small businesses with fewer than 250 employees. The survey uses a random sample of SMB leaders with Facebook Page administrator privileges and of the general population of Facebook users. Weights have been applied but the sample covered in the survey is representative of SMB leaders surveyable through Facebook and not necessarily the national or U.S. state population of SMBs. States without sufficient samples were excluded from this analysis. More on the methodology is available here.