A worrying number of small firms in the UK are failing to embrace green computing, according to new research from the SERTeam at the Open University and Lloyds TSB Business.

The study reveals that the number of small firms who see themselves as environmentally-friendly has actually fallen over the past few years - perhaps an indication of the growing awareness amongst firms of how much they must do to be more environmentally sound.

More than half (52 percent) of the UK's small businesses believe they still have some way to go before they become environmentally friendly - a nine percent increase on a similar survey in 1999. This is despite the fact that most firms (57 percent) realise customers are becoming increasingly sensitive to green business issues.

And greener technology featured low on the list for most smaller firms when it comes to environmental sustainability. Only a quarter (26 percent) have begun to make more use of tools such videoconferencing to reduce their reliance on meetings, and only nine percent have changed the focus of their products and services to make them more environmentally-friendly, for example by dealing only with software suppliers who are greener.

The firms questioned cite several reasons for their lack of action. A fifth (21 percent) blamed a lack of information on environmental issues, while 15 percent said they lacked the time to make the necessary changes and 12 percent said they didn't fully understand green laws such as the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) directive, which was set by the European Union to ensure the safe disposal of IT assets,

Professor John Stanworth, of Westminster Business School, who authored the report, said: "The days of plentiful and relatively cheap energy seem to be numbered. Our smaller firms would be well-advised to assess - sooner, rather than later - the opportunities and costs that will arise from the demands of an increasingly energy-efficient future."

The SERTeam interviewed more than 100 SMEs for each of its surveys.