Emerging models of environmentally sustainable enterprise: a comparative study of low-energy housing retrofit organisations in the UK and France.

Blundel, Richard; Killip, Gavin and Fawcett, Tina (2013). Emerging models of environmentally sustainable enterprise: a comparative study of low-energy housing retrofit organisations in the UK and France. In: Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE) 2013 Conference, 12-13 Nov 2013, Cardiff.

URL: https://www.eventsforce.net/isbe/frontend/reg/thom...


Objectives: This paper examines emerging models that are being adopted by organisations engaged in the low carbon transition, with a particular focus on the role played by social enterprises. It presents a case-based comparison of recent efforts by industry actors in the housing retrofit supply chain to deliver low-energy retrofits (or refurbishments) of existing housing stocks in the UK and France.

Prior Work: The study adopts a multi-disciplinary approach which makes connections between three broad strands of research: (1); energy policy, with a focus on energy efficiency in buildings (e.g. Fawcett and Mayne 2012); (2) social and sustainable enterprise (e.g. Blundel et al. 2013, Gibbs and O’Neill 2012); (3) socio-technical transitions (e.g. Geels and Kemp 2006; Smith 2007, Killip 2013).

Approach: The issues are examined through a comparative study of the low-energy housing retrofit policy environment and of current organisational structures and practices in the building industries of the UK and France. Industry responses to recent policy signals are explored in case materials that are based around reviews of published evidence and a series of semi-structured interviews with designers and contractors who have direct experience of innovative, low-energy refurbishment projects in each country.

Results: The case study evidence suggest that while the two countries have comparable long-term policy goals for CO2 emissions reduction, there are important organisational differences displayed in the more immediate initiatives being undertaken by industry actors involved in delivering retrofitting of the housing stock. The discussion section indicates possible explanations for these differences and highlights issues requiring further investigation.

Implications: The transition towards a more environmental sustainable residential housing depends largely on social, as opposed to technological, innovation. Policy-makers need to address specific organisational constraints, including the longstanding fragmentation evident in this part of the UK building industry. The cases suggest that there is considerable scope for reconfiguring traditional networks and for giving greater emphasis to collaborative arrangements involving private sector firms, social and community based enterprise.

Value: The study provides new empirical insights into the organisational dimensions of an important sustainability transition. It also makes a contribution to theoretical development by combining insights from several distinct disciplines, and by applying concepts from energy research, organisational studies, social entrepreneurship and socio-technical transitions to recent development in the UK and French building industries. It also identifies several implications for future research policy and practice.

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