Sustainability: Is It a Good Choice for Small Companies?

By Jennifer L. Miller
2010, Vol. 2 No. 10 | pg. 2/2 |

The various studies described show that it may be possible for small businesses to choose an environmentally friendly way of doing business. While the change will take work, there are several approaches that have been identified that can make the change possible. With changes possible and short-term advantages quantifiable, there is still debate about whether or not strategies produce long-term economic benefits.

No matter the size and structure of a company, debate still exists as to whether sustainability efforts are economically justifiable. The common belief is that most changes that need to be made for a company to “go green” are more costly than company’s current cost structure. With this notion, it becomes essential that a company can see strong economic benefit to implementing these new environmentally friendly processes. However, one recent author (Crosby, 2010) believes that a company can form a long-term relationship perspective through a “green advantage” with consumers. Crosby (2010) justifies ideas about the longevity of the green movement saying that consumers are beginning to realize more and more that environmental practices cannot be overlooked. They are essential to the vitality of the planet. With this belief in place, companies can feel safe moving towards green production because consumers will come to expect green practices from manufacturers (Crosby, 2010). In his discussion of green produces, Crosby (2010) uses Toyota as an example and their production of the Prius which almost single-handedly changed the way consumers felt about green automobiles.

While environmental practices can be a struggle to justify for companies of any size, it is helpful for researchers to understand that this issue affects all companies. It is not industry specific and it is not size specific. Essentially, it is important that all companies eventually make the transition to environmentally friendly practices in their respective industries. The most notable negative side to transitioning to sustainability strategies is the cost. This negative effect can be mitigated over time as researchers are able to find more evidence that sustainability is beneficial in the long-term.

As sustainability practices move forward and evolve it is important to understand how these concepts will likely affect companies’ and consumers’ futures. With increasing consumer awareness of the value of green practices, it will become more essential that companies “go green.” The problem, however, is knowing how to bridge the gap between current production means and a green form of production. How do companies mitigate costs and how do they justify re-engineering their products? Research in this area will highly beneficial to companies as more and more strive to make that leap to green production and processes. Researchers Young and Tilley (2006) propose an idea they term “eco-effectiveness.” This next level of environmentally friendly practices encourages companies to shed their “depletive” images with consumers (Young and Tilley, 2006). In other words, companies need to allow consumers to see that their production practices are not depleting resources. To change the consumer perspective and to effectively and efficiently switch to eco-friendly practices, companies need to develop an attitude that their production and processes are, instead, “regenerative” (Young and Tilley, 2006).

The study of green practices will definitely be an ongoing topic of interest and research going forward into the next 3 to 5 years. Several researchers how pointed companies in the right direction on how they might be able to uncover the competitive advantage they seek through green practices, however, there has yet to be much solid research on the financial reward of green practices and sustainability. Researchers will continue to try to shift the thinking of business managers from the traditional profit-obsessed business strategies to a more holistic sustainability strategy. In order to make this change, it is likely that changes will be more to business and the training of future business leaders. This “rethinking” concept will need to start in training in order to make a solid transition.

The move to sustainability practices has become a popular topic in recent years. With “going green” at the forefront of consumer minds, companies are eager to make changes. However, these changes do not come without concerns as “green” practices and switching to green production involves costs. But, researchers will continue to find ways to ease managers’ minds about the transition and help companies rethink how they do business.


Cordano, M., Marshall, R., & Silverman, M. (2010). How do small and medium enterprises go “green”? A study of environmental management programs in the U.S. wine industry. Journal of Business Ethics, 92, 463-478.

Crosby, L. (2010). Sustainable Relationships: Market forces and relationships can lead to a more sustainable future for us all. Marketing Management, 12-13.

Epstein, M. (2008). Making Sustainability Work: Best Practices in Managing and Measuring Corporate Social, Environmental, and Economic Impacts. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Gibbs, D. (2009). Sustainability entrepreneurs, ecopreneurs and the development of a sustainable economy. Greener Management International, 55, 63-78.

Gundlach, M. & Zivnuska, S. (2010). An Experiential learning approach to teaching social entrepreneurship, triple bottom line, and sustainability: modifying and extending practical organizational behavior education. American Journal of Business Education, 3(1), 19-29.

Tilley, F. (1999). The gap between the environmental attitudes and the environmental behavior of small firms. Business Strategy and the Environment, 8, 238-348.

Young, W. & Tilley, F. (2006). Can businesses move beyond efficiency? The shift toward effectiveness and equity in the corporate sustainability debate. Business Strategy and the Environment, 15, 402-415.

Suggested Reading from Inquiries Journal

President Grimsson studied economics and political science at the University of Manchester, and in 1970, became the first person in Iceland to earn a PhD in political science. In 1973, he became a Professor of Political Science at the University of Iceland. He was the University of Iceland's first Political Science professor. He... MORE»
Vietnam is becoming an increasingly inviting market for foreign investment. However, working with foreigners and expanding business abroad can be risky for all parties involved. The diversity among business cultures frequently... MORE»
During his Inaugural Address, President Barack Obama resonated with the ideals of many Americans—prosperity, freedom, good will, faith, and determination. He spoke of the market as having "umatched" power, "to generate wealth and expand freedom" (Obama). However, the market also has deeply complex roots in our society, where corporatism, consumerism, corruption, and exploitation all... MORE»
However, the most important lesson I learned from this book was a simple one, the one upon which American fundamentals rest: the beauty of business is that it is a voluntary transaction between two parties that results in mutual benefit for both parties. This is a profound idea; a nation of people could work together to better... MORE»
Submit to Inquiries Journal, Get a Decision in 10-Days

Inquiries Journal provides undergraduate and graduate students around the world a platform for the wide dissemination of academic work over a range of core disciplines.

Representing the work of students from hundreds of institutions around the globe, Inquiries Journal's large database of academic articles is completely free. Learn more | Blog | Submit

Follow SP

Latest in Environmental Studies

2017, Vol. 9 No. 12
Climate change is already altering our biosphere and is projected to bring about monumental changes to our planet’s environment, changes which are unprecedented in human history. Numerous social groups have drawn upon a wide assortment of... Read Article »
2017, Vol. 9 No. 05
Is it possible to objectively define the Anthropocene? This essay argues that whether or not it is precisely definable as a geological epoch, its true value, as a concept grounded in futurity, lies within the social realm. The origins of the term... Read Article »
2013, Vol. 3 No. 1
Published by Clocks and Clouds
Postmaterialist values, those that emphasize higher-order human needs, have become widely accepted as the determining force behind environmentalism in the West. Little research has been dedicated to studying the importance of these values outside... Read Article »
2017, Vol. 9 No. 03
In Gallup’s 2016 environment poll, 64 percent of U.S. adults are now worried a “great deal” or “fair amount” about global warming, with a record 65 percent attributing warming primarily to human activities (1). These... Read Article »
2016, Vol. 6 No. 1
Despite all the information we have regarding climate change and the potential perils of continuing on our path of consumption, people are slow to make the necessary changes. Our tendency to live habitually and the dampening effect continuous negative... Read Article »
2016, Vol. 6 No. 1
Whenever a decision is made in a social, political, or economic context, it is implicitly grounded in an ethical outlook. But where do these outlooks come from? To investigate this query, I examine the basis for ethical decisions regarding technology... Read Article »
2016, Vol. 6 No. 1
In today's globalized world, international cooperation and information sharing becomes increasingly important. This paper examines the criteria provided in the United State's Endangered Species Act, the European Union's Habitat Directive, and the... Read Article »

What are you looking for?


How to Manage a Group Project (Video)
The Career Value of the Humanities & Liberal Arts
Finding Balance in Graduate School