Barrier and incentives to ecological modernization : "SME printing firms : accidental environmentalists

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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. Access is restricted indefinitely. ----- Other research that has investigated SMEs across a range of industry sectors, has noted the printing industry is one in particular, that lags behind others in regard to the factors may impact on the industry's environmental responsibility, factors such as training, innovation, in awareness of how their industry may be causing pollution. The reasons why these small firms in the printing industry fail to commit to environmental responsibility compared to other industry sectors may be explained by investigating the characteristics of the firms, described by Filley and Aldag (1978) as the firm’s typology. The study aimed to identify how these factors acted as drivers for an unintentional technology based response to environmental problems. The research found that small printing firms in Australia did not believe their activities were causing any significant environmental damage. The majority of the owner/managers of SME printing firms that were interviewed considered that media reports of environmental damage were overstated. As a result, environmental issues fail to play any significant role in the business operations of the small printing firm in Australia. The small printing firms were almost totally consumed by responding to the intense competition that exists in the industry. They respond in the best way they know, that is to install new high-technology printing equipment. These small firms do not train their staff which could increase their skills which may also result in a more efficient business. The owner/managers of the SME printing firms solely rely on new technologies for efficiency gains. This narrow response to competition and the failure to engage in environmentally responsible activities such as waste management and energy reduction was revealed in the research, it may be the result of their lack of skills and their low commitment to training, which has been outlined in previous studies. The outcome revealed by the research shows that SME printing firms have greatly reduced their impact on the environment, a level which may not have been achieved if they followed a conventional program of waste reduction and process efficiencies. This research project has explored the extent to which this narrow response to environmental concerns is being played out in the case of the Australian printing industry. In this research I suggest that SMEs do not act in the same way as their larger counter-parts when it comes to how these groups of firms respond to society’s concern about the environment. The terms ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ as descriptions of ecological modernization theory, EMT may not be as applicable to SMEs as it is to large global organizations. The research reveals that small firms escape direct pressure from civil groups and government policy. In addition the research shows that SME printing firms are not facing any pressure from their customers to become environmentally responsible. As a result the criticisms of the lack of environmental responsibility in the case of SMEs may have been misplaced. The research uses the framework described by the early contributions to EMT in interpreting the processes behind the lack of environmental responsibility that has been noted by other researchers. Unlike previous investigations into the way SMEs have responded to environmental concerns in society, this study is carried out in a single industry sector, the Australian lithographic printing industry. The research was carried out as two separate studies. The first was a series of interviews carried out with the owner/managers of SME printing firms in Sydney and Melbourne. The second study was a comprehensive survey questionnaire conducted with 27 key informants from the international supply industry that services the Australian printing industry.
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