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«PROACTIVE ENVIRONMENTAL STRATEGIES IN SMALL BUSINESSES: RESOURCES, INSTITUTIONS AND DYNAMIC CAPABILITIES Jan Lepoutre Promotor: Prof. Dr. Aimé Heene ...»

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A second avenue for future research relates to the question how small businesses deal with environmental issues that require systemic changes. In chapter 5, we identified collaboration as the mechanism that enabled firms to create inexistent resources or capabilities. Yet in the event that a substantial reduction of a firm’s environmental impact would depend on the changes, or even replacement, of an entire system, then small firms may run into constraints that are truly insurmountable. The type of collaboration or influence processes required in this situation may then be of an entirely different kind (Bilimoria et al., 1995). For example, small transport firms wishing to decrease their impact on the environment depend on the R&D efforts of truck constructors developing hybrid or hydrogen engines. Without the efforts of these truck drivers, transport companies are severely constrained in the way they can diminish their own impact on the environment. Researchers may therefore want to address the questions whether and how small businesses can effectively

Chapter 8

set the processes in motion that result in the systemic changes that enable them to be more effective in realizing their own proactive environmental intentions.

Third, how can governments and professional associations exploit the uncovered mechanisms to increase the probability that firms will realize environmental strategies beyond what is legally required? To date, most articles discussing environmental responsiveness among small firms have encouraged governments to take the lead and set a level playing field for requirements related to the natural environment. Furthermore, they advance the view that small firms should be informed about the potential benefits environmental strategies may have for the firm especially through very direct information initiatives (Palmer & France, 1998). The research in this dissertation, however, would argue more in favor of initiatives that enable firms to develop munification and organicity, and that would support firms when their PES would entail institutional non-conformity. In particular, bringing information about different organizational fields and organizing network structures that enable exchanges between proactive firms may be particularly effective in this perspective. How such practices may effectively be organized, however, is open to further research.

Finally, the former question hinged on the assumption that the higher the ability of firms is to engage in PES, the more likely they will be inclined to enact their proactive environmental intentions. Yet an additional research question is also whether firms that have the ability to successfully realize PES would be more likely to also be motivated to have one, and therefore also realize it. Future research could therefore investigate whether PES capabilities influence the motivation and intentions for having one as well.

8.5. General conclusion How can small firms be successful in realizing PES? Our results reinforce the view that understanding PES requires looking at both the resources inside and outside of the firm, as well the institutional context that infuses these resources with value. Whether or not small firms will be able to realize their PES depends on how they can manage the interacting influence of both resources and institutions. In our data, for example, PES were manifested as processes of resource scarcity and institutional non-conformity. The research in this dissertation shows that, when firms combine an obstinate, yet prudent commitment to realizing their PES with the flexibility to creatively find and employ pockets of internal and outside resources, they will be able to engage in the process of building resources and institutional support that foster their realization of PES. Such an ability emerged in particular among those firms that framed the PES as part of a desired future, and who had a business

Chapter 8

model that was both non-conformist in multiple perspectives and conducive to executing a PES. Yet such a capability of organicity needed to be combined with munification, the proficiency to create the micro-environment that mimics the theoretical external conditions that foster PES. By employing specific network contacts and positions rich with complementary resources and capabilities and that lowered the embeddness in the organizational field, by collaborating with external stakeholders to create inexisting resources and by actively managing their institutional environment, even small firms can be freed from the inhibiting resource and institutional pressures that would normally constrain their successful realization of PES. In this respect, small firms that effectively realize PES have to face the combined challenges of institutional non-conformity and the realization of a strategy in a resource constrained environment. We must be fortunate that some small businesses have the courage to engage in this complex and risky endeavour.

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