Williams, Sarah; Schaefer, Anja and Blundel, Richard
Engaging SMEs with business greening: the role of manager values.
In: Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE) 2012 Conference, 6-8 Nov 2012, Dublin, Ireland.
Objectives: The objective of this paper is to contribute to the understanding of why SME managers engage with business greening. Using the Schwartz Value System (1996), we explore the values that managers draw on to describe their motivations for business greening. We start from the assumption that the business framing of the environment, the win-win approach promoted to managers to save money, save the planet (Raingold, 2009) is not value free but instead draws on conflicting values of power and universalism.
Prior Work: The literature shows the win-win approach has had mixed success with SME managers sceptical of the message (e.g. Revell, 2007, 2009). A pilot project for this study (Williams, 2009) identified the importance of values amongst a small group of environmentally pro-active businesses where, key to this paper, environmental values were not the main motivation.
Approach: As part of a qualitative doctoral research project, 22 SME owner-managers and 8 environmental champions participated in semi-structured interviews. Coming from a variety of business sectors within the East of England, managers described a range of environmental actions as part of their construction of business issues such as greening, sustainability and climate change.
Results: This paper shows that ‘power’ values are not the only way of filtering and constructing business greening for SME managers. Managers were found to be drawing on marker values that Schwartz (1996) links with ‘achievement’. In particular, managers framed what they did in terms of being effective and efficient. They wanted to be seen to be capable and to have an influence on people and events. Managers did not draw on both achievement and power in their constructions; it was one or the other.
Implications: Manager values, especially within SMEs, are key to understanding the interplay of motivations for engaging SMEs with business greening. However, it is important not to present an over-simplified view. Not all managers are motivated by the need for power and environmental actions are not necessarily stimulated by environmental values.
Value: Drawing on this research, a model was presented to businesses that re-framed engagement in terms of achievement values. During the workshop and feedback sessions, managers reported this as a new way of thinking about greening that allowed them to see their own actions as components of a bigger picture that would motivate linked up and deeper action.
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