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An evaluation of the impact and effectiveness of environmental legislation in small and medium-sized enterprises: experiences from the UK

Wilson, Christopher D.H., Williams, Ian David and Kemp, Simon (2012) An evaluation of the impact and effectiveness of environmental legislation in small and medium-sized enterprises: experiences from the UK Business Strategy and the Environment, 21, (3), pp. 141-156. (doi:10.1002/bse.720).

Record type: Article


With Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) accounting for 99.7% of the 4.7m UK businesses, they can have a huge collective impact on the environment, which in turn, is increasingly regulated. This study investigated the impact and effectiveness of environmental legislation on UK SMEs as well as determining if ‘compliance’ results in improved environmental protection. Interviews were conducted with SME management, site staff, regulators, policy officials and support organisations. Forty-four SMEs from the north-west of England participated in the study and overall, a total of 99 individuals were interviewed. The study clearly indicates that the impact of environmental legislation on SMEs is overstated and impact increased commensurate with effort to comply and enforcement action. Only 1 of the SMEs studied had been prosecuted and only 2 had been inspected. Compliance issues identified in those SMEs subject to direct regulation did not correlate with previous compliance audits conducted. In general, SMEs had poor awareness of compliance issues; non-compliance was only really recognised and acknowledged if identified by a regulator and only regarded as serious if prosecuted. Regulation of the environment is clearly only effective if complied with; understanding compliance levels can help measure the link between legislation and environmental protection. The effectiveness of environmental legislation can only be understood if SMEs are subject to regular regulatory contact. Recommendations to improve SME compliance control systems are provided.

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More information

e-pub ahead of print date: 27 July 2011
Published date: March 2012
Keywords: compliance, environmental legislation, regulation, enforcement, sustainability, SMEs
Organisations: Centre for Environmental Science


Local EPrints ID: 337988
ISSN: 0964-4733
PURE UUID: 6e500427-829c-4b16-a457-0065c7dc0cf3
ORCID for Ian David Williams: ORCID iD

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Date deposited: 09 May 2012 12:46
Last modified: 25 Aug 2017 16:33

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