Going green: prospects for SME's to attain ISO 14001 and the challenges they face in the process

  • Adam Frost

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This research aimed to identify any common factors that have enabled and/or motivated SMEs to successfully implement ISO 14001 whilst the majority have not. It also identified what challenges and barriers SMEs face in doing so and how some have overcome these. The existing literature suggests that the majority of SMEs perceive their environmental impacts to be proportional to their size; have a poor understanding of environmental issues; have a poor awareness of environmental regulations; do that have the necessary expertise or leadership to address environmental issues and that SMEs with an environmental management system such as ISO 14001 are very much the minority. The main factors that influenced whether an SME had implemented ISO 14001 were: competitive advantage, regulatory compliance, supply chain pressures, leadership, expertise, resources and external support. This research used qualitative analysis of interviews with managers and directors from 8 SMEs with ISO 14001 and 4 without. All of the SMEs were based in the West Midlands or Staffordshire. Interviews were also conducted with 3 organisations offering support to businesses on environmental issues and with 1 large business who was engaging their suppliers (which included SMEs within this sample) on environmental issues. The research found that there were four main factors that enabled or motivated the SMEs to implement ISO 14001, these were: leadership, supply chain pressures, external support and SMEs' history and experience of accredited management systems. The main challenges that these business had to overcome and that prevented the other SMEs from achieving ISO 14001 were: achieving regulatory compliance, perceived financial cost, lack of perceived competitive advantage, access to relevant and affordable support and for those SMEs without ISO 14001 there was very little perceived external pressure or need for them to do so.
Date of AwardJun 2011
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorReiner Grundmann (Supervisor) & Stuart M Cooper (Supervisor)


  • Environmental Management System (EMS)
  • accreditations
  • supply chain
  • leadership
  • small businesses

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