Small business environmental management:: Rhetoric or reality?
Faculty of Business and Law
School of Management
Objectives - To investigate the attitudes of small business owner-managers toward environmental management. Prior work - Environmental management has commonly been practiced by large companies, however,. The need to engage small businesses also in these practices is crucial to sustainability in Australia. The management of the environmental impact of a small business is the domain of the owner-manager therefore their attitudes are a significant influence and have a direct impact• on participation and action on environmental management and, indirectly, on the local community. Most small business owner-managers are resource poor, both financially and in the amount of spare time available to them to implement new practices. Recently, however, evidence has grown which demonstrates that by implementing effective environmental management practices, lasting economic benefits can be made and that these practices can create competitive advantage for small business. Approach - 139 small business owner-managers were surveyed in one geographic area that was selected for its small size and typical light industrial profile. The survey design incorporated both quantitative and qualitative questions to gather both statistical and in-depth responses. Results - Supporting other research it was shown that the majority of these small business owner-managers are interested in the environment. However, the owner-managers' of small business do not often align their high level of interest with an equal level of good environmental impact management practice or knowledge. Less than two-thirds of the owner-managers were able to explain the environmental impact of their business and many gave broad rather than specific responses. The overall results indicate that a rhetoric versus reality situation exists which will not change without considerable cooperation between government, businesses and the local community. Implications - By providing a better understanding of the existing attitudes of these small business owner-managers, this study can help direct the efforts required to engage this important business sector in effective environmental practices. Value - A small business perspective has shown that characteristics of these businesses are not always conducive to engagement in practices which reduce their impact on the environment. In addition, owner-managers attitudes are shown to be targets for intervention.