Green growth, as a way to reconcile economic growth with environmental sustainability, offers numerous business opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Depending on their profile and sector, companies can put environmental products and services on the fast-growing green market. They can also make environmental improvements in their operations to reduce costs and comply with regulatory requirements.
Companies wishing to engage in greening, however, are often faced with a lack of specialist knowledge, difficulties in accessing finance and excessive regulatory burdens.
The Green Action Plan (GAP), proposed by the European Commission in 2014, is aimed at helping SMEs turn environmental challenges into opportunities. It focuses on resource efficiency, green entrepreneurship and green skills, eco-innovation, greener value chains, and facilitating market access for SMEs.
It also provides tools for the internationalisation of European SMEs, taking advantage of Europe's leadership in green technologies. The Plan complements other EU initiatives, such as the Green Employment Initiative, a Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe, Circular Economy and European Industrial Renaissance, and is intended to create synergies between them, using the financing under existing programmes.
The actions proposed are intended not only to benefit SMEs and the economy, but also to help address environmental challenges related to resource scarcity, waste management and climate change. Reactions to the Plan have been largely positive, with stakeholders pointing out the need to involve business associations, take into account the variety of SME models in Europe, and prioritise financing, knowledge transfer and a supportive regulatory environment. The European Parliament welcomed the Plan but pointed out areas requiring further effort.
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