Thursday, 17 July 2008

Small business and private company considerations

Small business and private company considerations

Applying the proposed framework will be a challenge for all enterprises, but smaller businesses may encounter additional challenges. Besides sustainability reporting, smaller businesses will have to adapt to the new corporate climate with less in-house expertise, fewer resources and less formal management structures than larger corporations. It will be difficult for them to keep abreast of ever-changing regulatory requirements.

Fortunately, small businesses can find much of the expertise they require through industry associations, chambers of commerce, corporate environmental groups (such as GEMI in the USA), national and international business-government groups (such as the European Green Table), management consultants and universities.

There is also a growing body of literature, some of which deals with the experiences of companies that have integrated sustainable development into their operations.

The limited resources of small businesses can be offset by co-operative ventures with other companies. These may, for example, take the form of committees which monitor developments and serve as a forum for exchanging ideas. To the extent that different companies have similar stakeholders, they can compare notes on their stakeholders’ needs and expectations and how they plan to address them.

These cooperative ventures could be more complex, and include formal industry programmes dealing with matters such as performance standards, monitoring and

technological research.

Once the expertise and resource issues have been addressed, the generally less formal management structures found in small businesses can be a positive advantage. There will be fewer people to educate within the enterprise, and there will usually be less resistance to change. In addition, there are usually no formal committees to whom the new strategies must be ‘sold’, and no lengthy review and approval procedures to slow the process down. The ‘hands on’ management style common to smaller businesses can also aid the monitoring function: management will be well positioned to spot problems and to make the necessary adjustments.

The road to implementing a sustainable development philosophy will be different for

smaller businesses, but with ingenuity, perseverance and cooperation, they can achieve

the desired result.

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