Insights into sustainability change management from an organisational learning perspective: learning from SME sustainability champions

Wiesner, Retha and Chadee, Doren and Best, Peter (2011) Insights into sustainability change management from an organisational learning perspective: learning from SME sustainability champions. In: 10th International Research Conference on Quality, Innovation and Knowledge Management: Aligning Innovation in Developed and Emerging Economies (QIK 2011), 15-18 Feb 2011, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia .

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Currently numerous businesses are implementing a formal environmental management system to achieve environmental sustainability outcomes as well as economic and social outcomes. However, the establishment, implementation and maintenance of a formal system is costly and most often beyond the reach of many SMEs. Furthermore, most SMEs do not have the resources and expertise to adequately staff significant environmental sustainability change initiatives. Additionally from a theoretical perspective, environmental sustainability change management has been the domain of research in large organisations, however it is a new direction of research in SMEs. Recognising that managing environmental sustainability change could be a daunting task for SMEs owing to their unique characteristics differentiating them from large organisations, this paper seeks to explore how environmental sustainability could be optimised and managed in SMEs from a learning organisation perspective.
The objective of this paper is therefore to report the environmental sustainability journeys of twelve sustainability SME champions and analyse how these firms optimise environmental sustainability by adopting the characteristics of a learning organisation.
This study employed exploratory research methodology. A series of twelve mini-case studies was carried out with twelve SME sustainability champions in Queensland, Australia. Purposeful sampling has been employed to select SMEs that have either received awards of have been publically recognised for their sustainability initiatives since this would provide an ideal context of studying environmental sustainability change management. An in-depth interview program has been conducted with the CEO’s and other management staff involved in sustainability initiatives in each participating firm and secondary materials regarding sustainability issues in these firms have been collected. A content analysis of interview and secondary data has been conducted utilising NVivo qualitative analysis software. The data has been analysed for emerging themes and a comparative development of key logics has been conducted in developing a conceptual framework which could be used for driving sustainability initiatives from a learning organisation perspective in SMEs.
Four stages have been identified in sustainability champions’ environmental sustainability change journeys including, design for ES; internalisation of ES, implementation of ES and achievement of triple bottom line outcomes. Our framework outlines how characteristics of a learning organisation have assisted these firms in becoming leaders in environmental sustainability despite their size. Therefore, the relevance of core organisational learning characteristics to different aspects of sustainability change management within the SME context is demonstrated.
Our framework supports the view that a heightened propensity for learning ensures that SMEs are better equipped for meeting the challenge of successfully progressing environmental sustainability and achieving triple bottom line outcomes.

Possible implications and applications
Even though organisational learning is viewed as a distinct organisational capability that can be cultivated over time in the pursuit of sustainability, SMEs would benefit from the intentional use of learning processes in the sustainability change management process and progression to triple bottom line outcomes.

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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Paper)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: No evidence of copyright restrictions preventing deposit. This paper is part of a larger project on corporate sustainability in SMEs lead by Dr Retha Wiesner at USQ
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Business and Law - School of Management and Marketing
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2012 05:22
Last Modified: 12 Aug 2014 03:49
Uncontrolled Keywords: sustainability; change management; organisational learning; SMEs
Fields of Research : 15 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services > 1503 Business and Management > 150311 Organisational Behaviour
15 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services > 1503 Business and Management > 150307 Innovation and Technology Management
15 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services > 1503 Business and Management > 150305 Human Resources Management
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970115 Expanding Knowledge in Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services

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