Small hotel and restaurant businesses are lagging behind all other sectors in awareness of their environmental impact, according to new research.
A survey of 4,489 businesses, 363 of which were hotels and restaurants, revealed that just 5% of the hospitality operators realise that they take part in activities that can harm the environment, despite many more than this actually doing so.
The study, by the Environment Agency's guidance website NetRegs.gov.uk, also revealed that just 30% of the hotels and restaurants had an environmental policy in place, compared with an average of 40% across all sectors.
Just 11% of the hotels and restaurants questioned could name a piece of environmental legislation unprompted, compared with 24% across industry.
Last year, small and medium sized businesses in the UK were fined a total of £2.4m for pollution and environmental damage and NetRegs warned that a lack of understanding could land hotels and restaurants in hot water.
Richard Martin, NetRegs programme manager, said: "There is a growing will among small and medium sized hotel and restaurant businesses to protect the environment through improved business practices. But with limited time at their disposal, many still don't understand what they need to do."
Netregs.gov.uk provides guidance to small and medium-sized businesses on environmental regulations.
It is a partnership between the Environment Agency (England and Wales), Environment & Heritage Service (Northern Ireland) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.
By Daniel Thomas