Sustainability engagement or not? U.S. SMEs approach

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© 2020 Small Business Institute®. In the extant literature on SMEs’ sustainability engagement, relatively little research has focused on the US compared to Europe. Our study is based on semi-structured interviews with a large number of manufacturing and services firms (75), from big and small cities in New York state, investigating the major drivers and barriers to SMEs’ sustainability and whether such initiatives paid off. Findings show owners/managers’ sense of moral obligation to reduce negative environmental impact as well as their levels of sustainability education and awareness have played major roles in driving sustainability. Gaining competitive advantage, need for regulatory com-pliance or financial incentives offered by governmental agencies were mentioned, but not deemed as key influencers. Major barriers included cost and limited resources, though more than two-thirds of the firms’ owners/mangers believed that sustainability engagement had paid off. These results aim to help policy makers learn about the impact of their decisions and adjust them to be more effective. SMEs’ owners/managers can also learn about common drivers and barriers in adopting sustainability and plan accordingly.

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Journal of Small Business Strategy

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