Majority of businesses are working on sustainability

A large part (82 percent) of businesses have implemented measures this year to make their operations more sustainable. Last year, this was 79 percent of the businesses. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of the Business Survey Netherlands (COEN) held at the beginning of September 2023 among enterprises in the manufacturing, automotive, retail trade and services sectors.

Close to 23 percent of the businesses have mainly made sustainability efforts in the field of energy. Measures related to the circular economy ─ environmentally conscious handling of raw materials and waste ─ were mentioned by 15 percent. Eight percent of the businesses were undertaking emission reductions. Nearly 36 percent of the enterprises said they had taken a combination of measures relating to energy, emissions or the circular economy. Almost 18 percent of the businesses have not improved sustainability further this year.
Businesses in transportation and storage more often work on their emissions compared to other sectors, and those in culture, sports and recreation, automotive and retail trade are more likely to have taken energy measures. In accommodation and food services, circular measures have become more important.

Measures taken to improve sustainability compared to the previous year, 2023
BedrijfstakNone (% of businesses)Mainly in energy (% of businesses)Mainly in emissions (% of businesses)Mainly environmental conscious handling of raw materials and waste (% of businesses)Combination of the above (% of businesses)Other measures (% of businesses)
Total (manufacturing, automotive and
retail trade, services)
Automotive and repair11.833.55.513.635.60.0
Real estate activities12.
Retail trade
(excl. automotive)
Transport and storage14.312.927.
Accommodation and food services18.823.21.730.225.50.6
Culture, sports and recreation18.833.63.318.925.00.4
Other services22.320.01.621.029.95.2
Renting/leasing and
other business services
Information and communication23.617.
Specialised business services26.515.88.414.733.21.4

Small businesses more often have limited financial resources

A quarter of entrepreneurs say that dependence on third parties is the main barrier to making their operations more sustainable. Over 14 percent cite a lack of financial resources as the main obstacle. A slightly smaller group (11 percent) sees too few benefits from increased sustainability. On the other hand, more than 32 percent of the businesses experience no hindrance in their sustainability efforts.

In large enterprises (businesses with at least 250 employees), 3 in 10 companies mention dependence on third parties as the main barrier to sustainability. In small companies (up to 50 employees), 2 in 10 say the same. Small businesses mention a lack of financial resources, unfamiliarity with the possibilities of (further) sustainability and a perception of little benefit more often as the main obstacle compared to large enterprises.

Main obstacles to corporate sustainability improvement, 2023
BedrijfsgrootteDo not expect any obstacles (% of enterprises)Do not know how to make operations (more) sustainable (% of enterprises)Lack of financial resources (% of enterprises)Shortage of staff to realise sustainability goals (% of enterprises)Dependent on third parties (% of enterprises)Not enough benefits (e.g. competitively, financially) (% of enterprises)Other (% of enterprises)
5-49 employees30.
50-249 employees30.76.813.67.522.313.35.8
250 or more employees33.54.912.26.630.87.64.4

Large enterprises more often consider their operations as largely sustainable

Nearly 35 percent of the enterprises rate their business operations as largely or fully sustainable. Almost half say their business operates partially sustainable and 15 percent think their business is sustainable to a small extent. Large enterprises are more likely to rate their business operations as largely sustainable than SMEs. The results do not imply that all economic activities are equally sustainable. For example, businesses more often measure their performance against standards, peer companies or sustainability opportunities within their sector than benchmarking themselves against (more sustainable) enterprises in other sectors.

Opinion on sustainability of own operations, 2023
Bedrijfsgrootte(Almost) entirely sustainable (% of enterprises)Sustainable to a large extent (% of enterprises)Sustainable neither to a large nor to a small extent (% of enterprises)Sustainable to a small extent (% of enterprises)Hardly or not at all sustainable (% of enterprises)
5-49 employees2.929.
50-249 employees1.929.251.814.72.4
250 or more employees2.137.746.112.41.7