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Title: Improving the environmental performance of small and medium sized enterprises : an assessment of attitudes and voluntary action in the UK.
Author: Peters, Michael D.
ISNI:       0000 0001 1019 3078
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2001
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The environmental performance of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) was chosen to be the topic of study for this thesis. While this policy-relevant research area has gained increased coverage in the literature over the last decade, it has still proved difficult to generate empirical data and information of sufficient quality and quantity. A major aspect of environmental performance involves the management of waste, and waste minimisation was of particular interest to this programme of research. Another area of special interest for this thesis was the extent to which voluntary policy tools (voluntary initiatives, or VIs) could be utilised at the local level to engage with SMEs on the issue of improved environmental performance. The early desk study research revealed the major barriers preventing more environmental action by SMEs to date. The barriers included low-priority attachment to environmental issues, a lack of time/manpower and limited understanding. It also revealed that while VIs have proved successful at the 'macro' level there is little evidence or experience to draw on for their design or implementation at the local scale. The programme of empirical research Involved an original analysis of a recent nation-wide survey into the environmental attitudes of UK manufacturing businesses; the completion of an environmental attitudes survey with approximately 60 SMEs situated in East Anglia; observation of a waste-oriented local authority environment project Involving small businesses and a similar project with a rural village community in Suffolk, and finally the establishment of two voluntary waste minimisation initiatives on Industrial estates in Norfolk and Suffolk. The national survey analysis identified smaller sites as consistently less proactive in most areas of environmental thinking and action. This finding was not strongly confirmed by the survey of East Anglian SMEs which showed that a small business does not have to be a member of an environmental group/initiative to have already adopted certain sound environmental practices, even if primarily these measures were geared towards cost savings/efficiency gains. The industrial estates projects have proved to be particularly useful, demonstrating the potential benefits of this type of voluntary action which capitalises on the close geographical proximity of a number of SMEs sharing common problems. The benefits included a reduction of waste generation, the development of more environmentally responsive business cultures and improved relations with the local authority. The village community project that brought together all elements of the local society from the businesses to the school, in a rural setting, seems to be a sensible way to focus minds on the reduction of waste and consequent benefits.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Waste minimisation Factory and trade waste Recycling (Waste, etc.) Environmental law Management