Ecocentrism and small businesses

Author Identifier

Gun Dolva

Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Business and Law

First Supervisor

Pattanee Susomrith

Second Supervisor

Janice Redmond


This thesis explores human and nature relationships in small businesses from a nature-first, ecocentric perspective, and uses the findings to construct a collaborative framework to enhance these relationships. Accordingly, this study fills several gaps identified in emerging literature discussing the importance of understanding human and nature relationships, ecocentrism and the management of pro-environmental practices in small businesses.

By framing this thesis within a nature-first perspective, this study responds to the UN conviction that the concept of Harmony with Nature needs to be adopted and non-anthropocentric relationships with nature are necessary to achieve this. To create a suitable conceptual framework for this study, the researcher therefore drew on ecocentric philosophies and a nature-first research approach that aimed to enhance the protection of nature by understanding and improving human and nature relationships. The methodology used involved in-depth interviews with participants from café and construction businesses, followed by thematic analysis of the transcripts. The results were finally triangulated with collaborative learning theories and used to develop a collaborative learning framework that could be used to enhance human and nature relationships in small businesses.

The findings demonstrated that while participants were anthropocentric in their perspectives, attitudes, and behaviours about and towards nature, they were also concerned about its destruction, and motivated to do more personally and at work to reduce this destruction. While they were able to act on ideas to reduce their impact on nature in their personal lives, they were however, only able to do so at their workplaces if they had permission. These findings are notable for identifying that lack of action is not necessarily related to knowledge or motivation to act, but rather to having opportunities to act. Participants identified that the main enablers improving their knowledge, motivation, and ability to act included the use of media, individual and group learning, and opportunities to share with and support each other. Findings also revealed that without external support and stakeholder collaboration, small businesses cannot effectively increase their pro-environmental practices. Additionally, an unexpected finding was the identification of eco-grief in the participant cohort, particularly of those in the construction industry. This was associated with individuals witnessing destruction of nature and feeling unable to prevent it occurring. This finding suggests that improving the ability of individuals to act to reduce their harm to nature can also improve mental health at workplaces. Understanding and being able to measure the level of this human and nature emotional relationship is an important area requiring further research, not only academically or to reduce human damage to nature, but also as it offers an innovative tool for the management of organisational cultures.

This thesis makes several contributions. First, by focusing on small privately owned businesses, this thesis also contributes to gaps in the understanding and management of ecocentric mindsets and behaviours in such businesses. Second, the evidence based framework, such as that developed in this thesis, has important implications for emerging environmental sustainability debates. Third, this work contributes to emerging academic and practical actions intended to address gaps in this field, including those concerning how to enhance Harmony with Nature perspectives and behaviours. This includes the research methodology of this thesis which shows how ecocentric theory can be coupled with a nature-based approach to identify and classify ecocentric perspectives, attitudes, and behaviours, and what influences these factors.

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