Business Networks and The Uptake of Sustainability Practices in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises: The Case of New Zealand
Eva Collins and Stewart Lawrence, Waikato University, New Zealand
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) pose special challenges for stakeholders interested in promoting sustainability practices. SMEs are perceived as having different barriers to implementing sustainability practices (e.g. lack of expertise and capital) compared to larger firms. And while individual SMEs may have small social, environmental and financial impacts, cumulatively their impact is significant. This is particularly true in New Zealand where 98% of enterprises are SMEs. There are a growing number of studies examining how networks and alliances influence the uptake of environmental and sustainability practices by SMEs around the world (e.g. Greener Management Internationalís special issue, Summer 2000).

This paper reports on the uptake of sustainability practices from over 800 firms in New Zealand, contrasting results from members of the Sustainable Business Network (SBN) with non-members. The study also examined differences related to business size. Not surprisingly, large firms were found to be more actively engaged in sustainability. However, our results contradicted the existing literature in finding no difference in the barriers to the adoption of sustainable practices among different sized firms. SBN members were more likely than non-members to adopt environmental initiatives, citing the importance of reputation and brand as drivers. There were less differences between the two groups on the adoption of social practices, however more members (67%) than non-members (52%) see socially related issues becoming more important or much more important over the next five years.

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