Britain's SMEs are in favour of being taxed according to their carbon emissions, new research suggests.

More than half (54 per cent) of SMEs over all and some 63 per cent of medium-sized companies agreed that they would be happy to pay out for the emissions that they caused, according to the SME Climate Change Survey.

But although firms had a good understanding of climate change terms such as carbon footprint, carbon neutral and carbon offsetting, very few actually acted upon their knowledge.

Only around one in six (17 per cent) small firms had assessed their own carbon footprint. Many blame a lack of understanding for not having moved more quickly, some 40 per cent of those who say they intend to measure their carbon footprint, plan to do so within the next six months.

None say they would leave it longer than two years before they measure theirs.

The findings form part of a report commissioned by the Recycling and Waste Management exhibition (RWM 07) which takes place at the NEC, this week.

Conducted by Explomarket the study found that Britain's SMEs are taking the subject of climate change very seriously and while not all are necessarily fully aware of current legislative requirements, most are active recyclers.

Among small companies (10-49 employees), however, only one in 10 has produced a carbon footprint compared with more than a quarter of medium sized companies (50-250 employees), suggesting that it is the smallest companies that still have the most to do to address climate change.

Paul Sanderson, editor of Materials Recycling Week which organises RWM 07, said: "Among the more frequently-mentioned reasons for not having a plan to reduce carbon emissions are that SMEs regard it as irrelevant to their business strategy (34 per cent) and just as worryingly because of a lack of information and understanding on their part (28 per cent).

"Clearly, companies of all sizes need to be better informed about carbon emissions and about the benefits to them and the country of having a sound policy in this area."

The survey also revealed that almost nine in 10 SMEs currently have plans to reduce waste (86 per cent) and to recycle more (88 per cent), while nearly three quarters (73 per cent) plan to cut energy use.

However, only 42 per cent have a plan to cut transport emissions, and the proportion that aim to use a carbon offsetting scheme is the smallest at 15 per cent.

A lack of local facilities services was the commonest reason for not recycling, cited by some 58 per cent of respondents, but 45 per cent also mentioned a lack of information or understanding as a factor.

Envirowise, a Government-funded programme dedicated to putting the sustainable use of resources into UK business practice, is sponsoring a specialist seminar programme entitled Talking Climate Change which is free to all RWM 07 visitors for the duration of the show which runs until tomorrow.

Sessions will include case studies from businesses implementing climate change initiatives and advice on how to reduce a carbon footprint and develop a climate change strategy.