We Can Work It Out

Small business owners weigh in on the future of sustainability in the United States. 

Despite growing concerns over global warming and the nation's commitment to sustainability, a majority of small and medium-sized business owners believe improving sustainability in the United States is achievable, according to a recent survey. 

The results of the Cox Conserves Sustainability Survey (a national study commissioned by Cox Enterprises) reveal that small and medium-sized business owners are cautiously optimistic about sustainability in the U.S. this year. The 2017 Survey was conducted in August among 509 decision makers of businesses nationwide with less than 1,000 employees. 

While many respondents feared that sustainable practices in the country were in jeopardy, they were also hopeful based on improvements within their own organizations. The survey found that nearly three-fourths of respondents think we should participate in the Paris Climate Agreement. While an overwhelming majority (76 percent) believe in climate warming, female business owners rate higher than men in this area (81 percent versus 67 percent). 


When asked to choose a song that best describes the nation’s current state of sustainability, the majority of small and medium-sized business owners selected "We Can Work It Out" by the Beatles.

Compared to 2015, the 2017 survey showed a significant increase in the number of small and medium-sized business owners that have implemented sustainable business practices. In 2015, only 62 percent had implemented some type of company or employee-based sustainability program. This year, that number increased to 88 percent.

Highlights from the Cox Conserves Sustainability Survey:

  • No Confidence in the Capital: 63 percent of small and medium-sized business owners feel somewhat worse or much worse about U.S. sustainability since January 2017, while 24 percent feel about the same and 12 percent feel somewhat or much better.
  • Committed to Green: More than half of respondents say their companies are either committed or very committed to increasing their sustainable business activities. Only seven percent are not committed to this effort.
  • Where Physics Meets Environmental Policy: Small and medium-sized business owners were asked which fictional character they would trust to run the Environmental Protection Agency. The majority chose Sheldon Cooper of Big Bang Theory, while Scandal’s Olivia Pope ranked last.

Cox Enterprises is committed to environmental sustainability. The company’s national Cox Conserves sustainability program is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Since 2007, Cox has offset 82,000 tons of carbon, saved 57 million gallons of water through conservation and diverted 97,000 tons of waste.


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