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Title: Environmental compliance in SMEs : an investigation into the legal performance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), encompassing compliance levels, the impact and effectiveness of environmental legislation and improving SME environmental compliance control systems
Author: Wilson, Christopher D. H.
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2011
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There has been a great deal written about the difficulties faced by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) compared to larger businesses. SMEs face difficulties complying with environmental legislation, particularly because of the amount of complex law. This can result in the ‘environment’ being treated as less of a priority even though SMEs collectively have a significant environmental impact. Over the past few years, the UK has been focused towards achieving ‘better regulation’. In particular, Hampton highlighted the need for more strategic thinking when it comes to developing regulation. Hampton suggested that regulators should use a risk-based model similar to that used by the England and Wales Environment Agency (EA). This view is shared by Local Authorities and other environmental regulators; however, there has been criticism from some commentators who suggest that certain legislation is not successfully enforced. The increased use of risk assessment by the EA has reduced the number of inspections resulting in more ‘pressure’ being put on remaining inspections as well as there being less opportunity to identify non-compliance. In addition, those businesses not included under direct regulatory regimes are unlikely to be audited for compliance against any environmental legislation; consequently a significant portion of all businesses go un-inspected and uncontrolled. Because of the number of SMEs, there needs to be an effective system of regulation that controls activities and targets those businesses that pose a risk to the environment, without unnecessarily over-burdening SMEs. It is clear from the coalition Government’s planned austerity measures in 2011 that management of the environment will have to be done with less resource than before. This thesis draws together findings from research conducted between 2005-2011. Previous research on compliance with legislation has often been conducted in isolation with little research comparing compliance across a range of legislation, and certainly not using triangulation methods to assess SMEs’ overall legal performance. This study aimed to investigate the legal performance of UK SMEs with a range of environmental legislation. This study identifies: • the level of compliance (‘spirit’ and ‘letter’ of the law) with environmental legislation; • the impact and effectiveness of environmental legislation; and • ways of improving the environmental compliance control systems for SMEs. The study incorporated a wide range of environmental legislation, including that covering:waste management/ transfer, environmental permitting (including waste exemptions), site waste management plans, WEEE, RoHS, packaging, oil storage as well as identifying other potential environmental offences. Detailed compliance audits were conducted with 44 SMEs from 5 different sectors from the north-west of England. Interviews with SME management, site staff, regulators, Government policy officials and support organisations; in total 99 individuals were interviewed. The study indicates: • Low levels of compliance with the ‘letter’ and ‘spirit’ of the law. • Knowledge and understanding of environmental legislation was poor; no single SME, regulator or support organisation appreciated ‘environmental compliance’ as a whole. • Enforcement activity and surveillance of the SMEs audited was very low; this reflected nation enforcement figures. • The impact of environmental legislation on SMEs is overstated. The impact increased commensurate with ‘effort to comply’ and ‘enforcement action’. • There was evidence of direct and indirect environmental harm as a result of noncompliance. • Regulation can only be effective if it is complied with; measuring the link between the legislation and environmental protection must be accompanied by a clear understanding of compliance levels. This study produces an initial assessment methodology for SMEs, compliance performance indicators and recommendations to improve SME compliance controls.
Supervisor: Williams, Ian Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: TD Environmental technology. Sanitary engineering