Sustainability-oriented innovations in German SMEs: A multiple case study on waste management
Schmidt, Kathrin (2017)
Pro gradu -tutkielma
Julkaisun pysyvä osoite on
The European Union’s objective is to evolve into a circular economy maintaining resource efficiency and low waste generation. Germany emerges as a frontrunner concerning waste management, yet waste prevention appears to be insufficiently enforced among businesses. Correspondingly, the thesis explores whether German companies have proactively implemented innovative sustainable practices to reduce waste generation. Thereby, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are in the focus of the study owing to distinctiveness, heterogeneity and multitude. The empirical research has been qualitatively conducted by interviewing diverse German manufacturing SMEs and comparatively analysed with a large enterprise. Results deriving from the study are that companies have implemented distinct sustainability-oriented innovations (SOIs) to prevent waste due to varying external and internal factors as for example industry and customers or production processes, respectively. Thus, the results have inter alia fuelled debate on the current waste management system and initiatives to prevent waste, the concept of industrial symbiosis as well as company’s communication and behaviour in terms of sustainability. In conclusion, the research leads to various theoretical implications demanding future research on the concepts of SOI and industrial symbiosis, SMEs and existing policies. Finally, the study indicates the importance of systemic thinking of companies and governments regarding waste prevention to advance towards a circular economy whereby SOIs could be a means to attain sustainability.