Lock, P. and Baudains, C.
Transcending the blame game – cooperative SME environmental management.
In: Swan River Trust Forum, 2 November, Perth, Western Australia.
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) worldwide are an integral part of their local social and economic fabric, making essential contributions to national and global economies. However, they also represent significant environmental risks, and public costs, from the loss of Ecosystem Services. These characteristics have made SMEs increasingly obvious targets for engagement in the sustainability process. A multitude of factors influence the extent and degree of environmental management being practiced amongst SMEs. The factors are strongly interconnected and dynamic, presenting immense challenges to translating policy into meaningful sustainability outcomes. Regulation is important in setting minimum standards, ensuring a competitive playing field, establishing and maintaining social norms, and in conveying community expectations for acceptable practices. However, regulation tends to be a broad brush and may not induce behaviours beyond minimum standards. There is a significant role for the application of the social sciences in SME environmental management. However, designers of behaviour change programs often assume, and focus, on the ‘problem’ being the failure of the individual to adopt the advocated practices. Closer examination can reveal significant systemic impediments, and unreasonable expectations from educators and regulators regarding the capacity of individuals, and businesses, to adopt new innovations. This research focusses on facilitating cooperative and cost effective adoption of advanced environmental management amongst the poorest performers. Data and models are used to discuss the interaction of systemic influences, individual barriers, individual psychological factors, and regulatory and social influences contributing to the poor adoption of SME environmental management innovations in metropolitan Perth.
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