Managerial engagement with climate change in small and medium-sized enterprises

Williams, Sarah (2014). Managerial engagement with climate change in small and medium-sized enterprises. PhD thesis The Open University.



If the response to climate change is to include a transition to a low carbon economy, then the role of small businesses will be vital. As employers, innovators, polluters and carbon users, small businesses have significant combined impacts and opportunities. Within the framework of ecological modernisation, government policy has taken a largely voluntary approach to engaging small businesses with pro-environmental behaviour. Research has consistently found small businesses to be resistant to business greening and taken a predominantly positivist approach to identifying the barriers and drivers to behaviour and to measuring the effectiveness of different policy measures. In this study, the Schwartz Value System (SVS) is used within a qualitative research design to contribute new insight into how managers make sense of climate change. The thesis demonstrates the role of values in sensemaking and the need to engage with individuals within small businesses through the value-based frames they hold. In particular, this research shows that the win-win approach aimed at encouraging SMEs to save money, save the planet through voluntary engagement strategies over-simplifies managerial motivation. The managers in this study drawing on the self-enhancing value of Power most clearly reflected win-win ideas, except that they encapsulated the save money but not the save the planet message. Environmental protection, found within Universalism values, was only demonstrated by managers drawing on Achievement. In making sense of climate change, managers constructed their ideas using a mix of self enhancing, self-transcending, open and conservation values. To fully engage SME managers with climate change, policy makers need to take a more sophisticated approach to explicitly engaging individual with values.

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