Environmental challenges for European manufacturing SMEs
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Many owner/managers of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) do not believe that their business operations have a negative impact on the environment. However, cumulatively their effect is considerable; the SME sector is responsible for an estimated 60-70% of pollution related to manufacturing, and 70% of industrial waste production in Europe. This study reports on research carried out by the FutureSME project, a Framework 7 programme sponsored by the European Union. The study was carried out on 11 manufacturing-related SMEs from Italy, Ireland, Turkey, Czech Republic and the UK. The aim of the survey was to gain an overview into their environmental practices, to determine what challenges they faced and to see whether they considered there were opportunities in the environmental area. Following the initial survey, interviews took place with two of the SMEs. The findings indicated that the SMEs surveyed viewed legislation, large customers and competitors as the main drivers of environmental change. Energy and waste are considered the most important issues. The majority of the SMEs measured some cost-related environmental indicators. However, most did not use tools and techniques to measure the entire life cycle impact of their products. The majority of the SMEs could see opportunities related to environmental issues, such as the design of new products and greener manufacturing processes.
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