How much are small businesses part of the global economy?

What percentage of private sectors throughout the developed world are SMEs, and what’s being done to mitigate their carbon emissions?

Table of Contents

Worldwide, the economies of developed countries are dominated by SMEs, with small to medium businesses accounting for over 99 percent of almost all private sectors. 

As SMEs vastly outnumber large businesses in every corner of the globe — in the UK alone contributing to at least six percent of overall carbon emissions — mitigating their greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution would move countries forward on their paths to net zero.

Read on to find out about SME business populations around the world, and the actions being taken to reduce GHG emissions.

SME numbers in developed economies

All 27 European Union (EU) member states, the UK, as well as the major North American and Australasian economies share the same economic makeup. 

Micro businesses are the most popular, representing at least 73 percent (Canada) of the private sector. Followed by small businesses, accounting for at least 2.1 percent (USA), and medium businesses, at least 0.5 percent (Italy).

Finally, large businesses make up the remaining count, representing no more than 0.5 percent of the private sector in any of the nations included in the table below.

International SME Populations

*EU countries all data 2018
*Canada data 2019. Does not include business with < 1 employee
*Australia data 2020 
*USA data 2016 & 2018
*Mexico data 2018
CountryMicro
0-9 employees
Small
10-49 employees
Medium
49 – 249 employees
Total 
UK96%
5,724,700
3%
211,845
1%
36,100
100%
5,972,645
Germany 82%
2,110,635
15%
388,665
3%
61,774
100%
2,573,946
France95%
2,710,930
4%
103,015
1%
17,032
100%
2,838,671
Italy95%
3,426,722
4%
162,489
1%
18,054
100%
3,610,877
Spain94%
2,450,003
5%
121,594
1%
15,522
100%
2,587,121
Mexico 97%
4,057,719
3%
111,958
3%
111,958
100%
4,169.,677
USA96%
27,612,786
3%
626,900
3%
629,025
100%
28,868,711
Canada74%
902,752
21%
262,154
4%
58,570
100%
1,226,454
Australia89%
2,102,541
9%
211,442
2%
57,018
100%
2,375,753

Reducing SME emissions internationally 

In the UK the average SME consumes four times less energy than a large business. Assuming this trend is reflected throughout the developed world, governments focusing climate change efforts on large businesses doesn’t come as a surprise. 

However, across the world, this has allowed SME carbon emissions to go unchecked and unmeasured. Only in 2020 have they begun to attract organised attention on an international scale. 

Voluntary initiatives such as the SME Climate Hub and Race to Zero are the attempts of some of the world’s largest private enterprises to encourage small business owners to commit to halving emissions before 2030.

Governments have embraced these voluntary schemes as official efforts targeting SMEs. And although the schemes give those who are willing to self-regulate carbon emissions effective advice, they remain voluntary. 

To date, no country has any law-bound official policies to regulate SME carbon emissions. This is a problem made worse as countries such as the UK, who have enshrined global-warming prevention in law, are currently not on track to hitting net zero by 2050.

Sources:

Alan Palazon
Author: Alan Palazon

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