SMEs and sustainability: a closer relationship than it seems. 1

SMEs and sustainability: a closer relationship than it seems.


The concept of sustainability is often misunderstood, limiting itself to the environment. This imprecision distances SMEs from a concept that can be very natural in their activity.

Especially in ecology and economy, which can be maintained for a long time without depleting resources or causing serious damage to the environment ”. The dictionary of the Royal Academy thus defines, in its second meaning, the adjective sustainable, but business reality has been expanding the focus for years. Today, in the company, sustainability not only concerns the environment, but also the more social impact of business work and good corporate governance practices. The sophistication of the concept fully reaches SMEs, the companies closest to local communities.

But “it’s not about inventing the wheel, but about asking yourself how you do your job, whatever you do,” says businesswoman Clara Arpa. The history of the company he runs, Arpa EMC, is a good example of how sustainability is also a matter for SMEs that is not necessarily linked to environmental impact. It was founded in La Muela (Zaragoza) in 1968, offering tents and temporary installations to summer camps. From there it began to diversify, building field kitchens for exercise and later also growing in the sanitary field.

Since 2011, it has been directed by the founder’s daughter, Clara Arpa, who also heads the Spanish Global Compact Network, the multinational organization that involves the private sector in the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Arpa EMC, whose equipment has been used in more than fifty countries, employs around eighty people and will close 2020 with approximately twenty million euros in turnover. But what most distinguishes it is its commitment to sustainability, which ranges from the use of energy, to continuous training programs, plans against workplace harassment or the promotion of healthy habits.



The businesswoman says that placing sustainability as a basic element of the company, about ten years ago, was complicated. “We had to start from scratch,” he recalls. In that process, a lot of internal pedagogy was needed: “It was difficult to get people out of their comfort zone,” he recalls, “because suddenly you go from talking about vacations and incentives to interest groups and sustainability.

Sustainability, at the origin of the business.

Born in 2017, the case of Crowdfarming is very different, since the very concept of sustainability is the key to its business model. This family company from Bétera (Valencia), which employs 42 people, sells organic agriculture, which they grow and market based on the orders they receive online, without resorting to intermediaries.

How does it work? He explains it by mobile – “from the orchard, surrounded by grapefruits” and with some coverage problems- Gonzalo Úrculo, founder of the company with his brother: “Faced with the conception of the consumer as an object to which you have to sell something, We want you to participate in the process, personalizing the food purchase in some way ”. Each client asks for the specific seasonal product, identifying the producer. Úrculo assures that it is a response to “a revolution that is already taking place in the field: farmers are increasingly willing to sell directly, and consumers increasingly demand more organic farming. The two ends of the chain are touching ”.
Crowdfarming is committed to ecological sustainability, but not only, explains Úrculo: “There is also economic sustainability, since the farmer can produce and plan without the intermediary setting the price at the end of the season, when all expenses have already been incurred. . And in organic farming, every time you remove chemicals you are adding labor. The direct sale of organic products has a positive impact on local employment ”, he assures.
Faced with some multinationals that “are always thinking about how to do more with fewer people, the small businessman finds some satisfaction in paying salaries,” says Úrculo, who was dedicated to logistics before creating his company. “Nobody asks us for anything about sustainability policies,” says Clara Arpa; “We act because we are convinced, but we would like the administration to take more into account the social value of sustainable companies.

A seal to differentiate sustainable SMEs.