Nearly nine in 10 small businesses said they checked the sustainability credentials of companies before deciding to work with them, according to new research.

Polling more than 1,000 small business leaders, Novuna Business Finance found that a focus on sustainability was becoming increasingly important, including scepticism of “bold” green claims.

It revealed that 89% would check claims and 58% would actively seek out official certifications, accreditation and listings to ensure that an organisation was meeting certain sustainability standards.

Around a third would check an organisation’s listing as a sustainable business on groups such as the Federation of Small Businesses or British Chambers of Commerce.

Leaders of larger businesses (up to 250 employees) were the most likely to seek out official accreditation – 64% versus 53% of businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

A company’s own published materials were also a consideration highlighted by the survey. Around a third (34%) said they would research the company’s green policies and practices on its website, with an additional 31% saying they would check reports and mission statements that outline green objectives.

More directly, just over a quarter (28%) said they would ask representatives about the company’s attitude towards sustainability as part of the process to decide whether or not to work with them.

Around a third (35%) said that they would do a cursory search on the company both on the internet and on social media to check what others had said about their sustainability credentials.

Around one in five (22%) said they would ask close contacts of the company to get a sense of a partner’s reputation as a sustainable company.

Jo Morris, head of marketing and insight at Novuna Business Finance, said: “We are quickly reaching the point where many small businesses will seek out greener options if it falls within the bracket of what they consider to be affordable.

“This wave of interest is met with an ever-increasing range of options to choose from. This means that business leaders are now forced to apply an additional layer of rigour to sort the genuine from the ‘too good to be true’.

“What we see from this research is not only the desire to work with green suppliers and stakeholders as part of their day-to-day operations but also the extent to which they are prepared to check any claims.”

Concerns about “greenwashing” have led the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to introduce new measures to ensure green claims made by companies do not mislead.

Jo added: “The new measures that are being introduced by the likes of the CMA and FCA will give small business leaders more confidence in the decisions that they make. However, the importance of a business carrying out its own research cannot be overstated.

“Understanding the right questions to ask, and where to find this information, is a key part in the process to making good sustainable choices for a business.”