Eco-innovation in SMEs

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play an important role in developing a green economy and supporting eco-innovation by investing in green products and services as well as offering greener products and services on the market. Investing in the green economy and eco-innovation can give a competitive edge to companies, as well as provide operational advantages, since resource efficiency measures usually lead to the reduced use of energy, materials and fossil fuels, which can lead to cost savings. Such investments can also contribute to creating green jobs and improving a company’s image, which can result in new marketing opportunities. Investments in eco-innovation can also lead to safer products of a higher quality. There are still big disparities in terms of eco-innovation performance between EU member states, many of which face operational challenges that hinder them from applying the right policy instruments.


Tools and methodologies

  • The Eco-Innovation Manual (United Nations Environment Programme, 2014). This step-by-step guidance supports technical experts in assisting SMEs to implement eco-innovation in developing and emerging economies.


  • Financing eco-innovation (EIM and Oxford Research for DG Environment, 2011). This report presents the findings of a major study on access to financing for eco-innovative SMEs.  
  • The Business Case for Eco-innovation (United Nations Environment Programme, 2014). This publication highlights eco-innovative business practices in developing countries and emerging economies that help strengthen private-sector engagement in promoting the transition to a more resource efficient economy and sustainable consumption and production practices.
  • Eco-innovate! A guide to eco-innovation for SMEs and business coaches  (Eco-innovation Observatory and the Centre for Sustainable Design, 2013). This practical guide to eco-innovation offers an overview of the emerging business opportunities that eco-innovation has to offer companies that reconsider business models; develop new products, technologies or services; or improve production processes. The guide summarises key business issues, questions and lessons learnt for SMEs and presents selected eco-innovation good practices.

Information platforms

  • Eco-innovation Action Plan: This information platform highlights funding opportunities, maps national strategies and provides useful links. It features the Eco-innovation Action Plan Community Platform, a one-stop shop that allows policy makers, the business sector, researchers and members of civil society to share ideas for improving the implementation of the action plan. 
  • The Eco-Innovation Observatory: This is an integrated information source on eco-innovation for companies and innovation service providers, which also provides a solid decision-making basis for policy development.
  • EU Eco-innovation initiative: The initiative is part of the EU's Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme (EIP), set up to support innovation among SMEs and to improve their competitiveness.

Case studies