Working on a Dream: Sustainable Organizational Change in Small and Medium Enterprises

  • Project

    Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have a vital role to play in managing limited environmental and social resources and innovation. One strategy for meeting the associated challenges is to adopt a greener business practice which is usually a major stimulus for innovation within a firm, giving rise to improvements in processes, production, materials usage and marketing.

    However, ecopreneurship requires not only eco-efficiency, or the minimising of energy, resources and waste, but also fundamental personal, social and institutional transformation. In fact, a fundamental qualitative change process at the firm level is needed to reap the benefits associated with sustainable entrepreneurship. This change cannot be a superficial or cosmetic public relations response but has to address every dimension of the organization, including identity, mission and goals, corporate and competitive strategies, organizational structure and formal systems, culture and leadership, competencies, organizational processes, and resources.

    Yet, despite the promise sustainable development holds for SMEs, there remains considerable uncertainty regarding these qualitative changes associated with a shift to sustainable development. Not only do we have little understanding of how SMEs will discover, develop and realize those opportunities in their organizations that lie beyond the pull of existing markets; in addition, the academic discourse on sustainable development and organizational change has, to date, been sparse. Thus, while the case for sustainable development as a panacea for transitioning towards a more competitive and innovative organization is alluring, there remain major gaps in our knowledge of whether and how this qualitative change process will actually unfold in SMEs.

    The purpose of this project is to address this gap. By adopting a qualitative empirical approach, we try to link debates on sustainable development with organizational change in SMEs. Industries populated by small and medium-sized enterprises, such as the Austrian wine industry, are beginning to come under pressure to improve their environmental performance. Thus, we conduct semi-structured face-to-face interviews with open-ended questions with owners of Austrian wineries. The audio transcriptions of the interviews, recorded on sound storage media, are analyzed using a qualitative content analysis. Following the discussion of the results, conclusions are drawn and suggestions for further research are given. The resulting analysis and assessment of the entrepreneurs’ motives to engage in sustainable development, the changeover processes and the qualitative changes at the firm level associated with the implementation of new environmental practices should enable entrepreneurs to map out strategies for stimulating and supporting sustainable development in their SMEs.

  • People

    • Isabella Hatak

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