Small businesses believe going green can boost their bottom line – but see tax and red tape as major barriers to becoming more environmentally friendly, according to Forum of Private Business research.

Just 10% of business owners responding to the Forum’s latest environmental panel survey have done nothing to reduce steep utilities costs while 41% have streamlined business processes, 28% have reduced energy usage and the same number have embraced more energy efficient equipment.

While 77% of respondents disagree that being green is impossible in the present economic climate, 52% argue that green taxes inhibit their ability to invest in reducing energy use, and 75% believe that environmental legislation focuses on the needs of larger businesses rather than small firms.

In all, 52% of the small businesses surveyed believe they cannot become more environmentally friendly until they are able to be more profitable.

The Forum’s chief executive Phil Orford said: “Small businesses see the benefits of green practices and technologies to the environment and, given rising energy costs, to their bottom lines. They are clearly taking steps towards introducing them but the lack of adequate support from the government and utilities providers is frustrating.

“We need better information about the choice of support and equipment that is available, and incentives to help business owners embrace environmental processes and trade more sustainably locally, regionally and internationally, rather than ever more taxation. Small businesses should be at the forefront of thinking about the green agenda.”

Just 8% of respondents believe regulators have been effective in protecting them from the ‘bad practice’ of utilities providers, while a significant 87% believe there should be one single government department responsible for utilities regulation and funding schemes.

Further, 38% of panel members have used or recommended to their staff national or local environmental initiatives introduced by the Government, such as the Cycle to Work scheme, while 48% have not – with 63% reporting they have not sought support from government agencies or organisations such as Business Link.

While 33% of respondents believe ‘green’ energy providers are markedly more expensive than traditional suppliers and are therefore not worth considering, 38% disagree with this.

In all, 78% think that using local suppliers is environmentally responsible. However, 76% believe that to effectively manage resources it is necessary to be able to measure energy usage.

While 65% of the small businesses surveyed believe that the cost of energy is more important than maintaining a continuous supply, 43% disagree. In addition, 66% report that introducing measures to guard against extreme weather conditions such as flooding and fire is less important than securing the best returns for their businesses at present, with 31% disagreeing with this.