Smaller companies need to follow the lead of big business and start seeing climate change as a business opportunity rather than simply a financial challenge, oil giant Shell has said.
The company has launched a new fund, called Shell Springboard, offering businesses cash awards of up to £40,000 if they can come up with innovative ideas to tackle climate change.
The move comes in the wake of dire warnings about the financial impact of climate change on world economies.
In June, the Association of British Insurers warned that climate change in the form of ever more frequent and ferocious storms could start to cost the global economy £15 billion a year.
Unions and manufacturers have also urged businesses to stop equating sustainable development as inevitably meaning job losses or becoming less competitive.
In the latest research, the Shell Springboard Report asked 200 small and medium-sized enterprises for their views on the business opportunity of products and services that help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
An overwhelming majority – 87 per cent – believed this market presented a significant opportunity for British business in general.
Around a fifth saw it as a significant opportunity for their own businesses.
Lord Oxburgh, the former chairman of Shell Transport and Trading, who will lead the UK judging panel for the fund (applications for which close on 4 November), said: "The urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions offers opportunities to the nimble.
"There is now scope for a wide range of devices and services which a decade ago would have made no economic sense and for which there would have been no demand," he added.
Despite the recognition of opportunities, most small business in the UK had not yet found a way to be part of this market, he stressed.
Nine out of ten firms polled felt products and services that helped to reduce greenhouse gas emissions offered a significant business opportunity, and that there was money to be made in this market.
And 95 per cent expected demand for these products and services to increase over the next decade.
But far fewer SMEs were convinced of the opportunity for their own particular business.
Two thirds said they knew little or nothing about the issue in relation to their own business.
Nearly a fifth said they planned to introduce products or services that helped to reduce green house gas emission in the next five years.
And three quarters of those who were not planning to do so said this was because they were not relevant to their business.
Six out of ten SMEs felt their company was too small to have an impact on climate change, although the clear majority (90 per cent) did believe climate change was a reality.