The Role of Intermediary Organizations in Eco-Efficiency Improvements in SMEs: A Multi-Case Study in the Metal and Mechanical Engineering Industries in Germany

23 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2011

See all articles by Johanna Klewitz

Johanna Klewitz

Leuphana University of Lueneburg - Dept. of Sustainability Sciences

Anica Zeyen

University of Erlangen-Nuremberg-Friedrich Alexander Universität Erlangen Nürnberg; Leuphana University of Lueneburg - Dept. of Sustainability Sciences

Date Written: December 1, 2010

Abstract

Corporate Sustainability (CS) links environmental and social issues to the corporate level by integration into conventional management. Thereby, companies can achieve sustainable organizational development and contribute to the sustainable development of society. One criterion of CS, among others, is eco-efficiency which aims to achieve environmental and economic excellence. By combining environmental issues with economic performance, aiming for eco-efficiency can be a practical starting point for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) reorienting their conventional management with small, not too radical steps. Considering the peculiarities of SMEs and inherent resource constraints, collaboration with intermediary organizations can promote this process. Through such collaboration SMEs have access to comprehensive and external expertise, can solve problems at the business level, establish new forms of partnerships and engage in learning networks. To identify the role of intermediary organizations in the process of aiming for eco-efficiency, this study chose a qualitative exploratory research using the multi-case study approach. Thereby drivers, barriers and matters related to adopting eco-efficiency through collaboration were identifiable. Owners and managers of SMEs operating in the metal- and mechanical engineering industries in Germany were interviewed. These companies took part in the ECOPROFIT®-scheme Germany, a partnership model between public and private organizations aiming to improve eco-efficiency. In this model local authorities act as intermediary organizations in terms of facilitating change and mediating between partners. The findings of this study suggest that eco-efficiency may be a suitable first step for SMEs to move towards CS as it presents a win-win situation. The role of intermediary organizations as initiators and facilitators to overcome challenges and barriers specific to SMEs is also indicated by the presented study.

Keywords: eco-efficiency, SME, intermediary organizations

Suggested Citation

Klewitz, Johanna and Zeyen, Anica, The Role of Intermediary Organizations in Eco-Efficiency Improvements in SMEs: A Multi-Case Study in the Metal and Mechanical Engineering Industries in Germany (December 1, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1815209 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1815209

Johanna Klewitz

Leuphana University of Lueneburg - Dept. of Sustainability Sciences ( email )

Scharnhorststrasse 1
Lüneburg, 21314
Germany

Anica Zeyen (Contact Author)

University of Erlangen-Nuremberg-Friedrich Alexander Universität Erlangen Nürnberg

Chair for Corporate Sustainability Management
Findelgasse 7
Nürnberg, Bavaria 90402
Germany

Leuphana University of Lueneburg - Dept. of Sustainability Sciences ( email )

Scharnhorststrasse 1
Lüneburg, 21314
Germany

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