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As industrialization and technology continues to develop further, pressures on ecological systems continue to grow. Industries contribute, in major way, to the degradation of the environment and therefore face the need to be environmentally viable and improve on its performance towards the environment. This however is hindered mostly by the fast growth of markets for industrial products in new areas and the increase in levels of production. Globalization of markets and production has seen many industries cross borders to sell their products at the global market and thus get exposed to the atmosphere of international competition. Since the main goal of such companies is profit making, it is therefore highly unlikely that they will incur costs towards environmental improvements, unless required by law. The challenges faced by these SMEs are mainly waste control and reducing pollution. (The United Nations Environmental Program) defined Cleaner production as the means of introducing an environmental strategy that is applied to services, products and processes to enhance eco efficiency reduce the risks fir the environment and humans as well. The advantages of cleaner production are reduction in production and use of toxic elements, sufficient use of resources and energy, avoidance of waste production, production of sound products (environmental friendly) and reduction in pollution of the environment (Gunningham and Darren Sinclair 1997, 10).
Many countries worldwide have come up wit many methods of enhancing cleaner production within SMEs. In the Netherlands for example, there is a step by step cyclic approach that enable many SMEs to begin their own projects of cleaner production after going through the process. It involves five steps periodically executed. The first step, the preparation, involves planning and commitment towards the cause. The second step is the quick scan where preliminary investigations are carried out. The team selects the point of attention and the prevention measures that suit the points of attention. Thirdly, the profound analysis, where work groups are created and sources and causes are determined and dealt with. The fourth step is improving the situation by searching for the prevention options and prevention measures are selected. The final and fifth step is implementing the measures agreed upon. The time frame and action plan is drawn, training and communication begins after allocation of responsibility and tasks. Afterwards the project is monitored to ensure everything remains in place. (Gombault and Versteege 1999, 5-8)
Barriers to cleaner production.
Most small medium-sized businesses all over the world have failed to take actions and measures towards improving the environment. These responsibilities are assumed to be of the larger organizations and companies that have more than 300 employees (Andrews, Stearne and Orbell 2001, 1). Very few enterprises have an environmental policy as they assume that, being small or medium-sized; they do not have any impact on the environment. These small businesses lack the time and resources to properly address the environmental issues and concern. (SME-nvironment 2003 pg 1)
Small medium-sized enterprises lack the necessary information and technical expertise for cleaner production. Obtaining such information and resources is costly and interferes with an enterprise's budget. The firm could, however, have the required information but the lack of expertise and skills necessary prevents it from attaining a state of cleaner production. SMEs are mostly incapable of handling large volumes of information. Minimal or absolutely lack of awareness of environmental issues is another barrier. This is partly due to ignorance as some SMEs have obstacles in conceptions of prevention of pollution and cleaner production. The management has instilled the idea that protection of the environment is costly and having a hard time determining the relationship between the environment and a firm policy. Shi, Peng, Liu and Zhong (2007, 2) found that in China, most firms have systems of account that do not capture environmental benefits and costs. They should present the liabilities and costs transparently to the decision makers. If the accounting systems fail to factor in the associated costs (environmental), impacts, liabilities and risks involved then the decision makers in the firm will be less likely to put into account the environmental considerations.
Small medium-sized enterprises commonly have the pressure to make profits in a short period of time channeling all the energy and priorities to competing business. A survey conducted by the tufts university showed that fifty-three percent of the chief executive officers said emphasized that the most important factor preventing environmental improvement is the desire for short term profit making. Most managers have bounded rationality when it comes to decision making. A firm may have the require information but they may b unable to process all of it due to maybe time constraints. They are only capable of dealing with just a few issues at a time. Another barrier to cleaner production is lack of enough funds. Managers and stakeholders therefore are reluctant to invest in the idea of cleaner production. They allocate inadequate funds for waste disposal and pollution control. In many industrial firms, there is the possibility of communication as a barrier as it creates a handicap to the process of decision making.
Reluctance to embrace cleaner production by SMEs is also caused by the inertia by middle management. The top administrators might be willing to invest in the cleaning process but it will not be possible since the middle management's resistance to change. In addition to this, the labour force often p4esents obstacles in many forms e.g. failure to employ trained personnel and management in charge of implementation and control of waste management technology and the general inability to coordinate an additional unit in the firm. The barriers discussed are considered as internal since it arises within the firms and mostly include it management. However there exists other boundaries that are beyond the firms' control and these are referred to as external boundaries.
Cleaner technology is limited and expensive especially for the SMEs and thus it is difficult for them to access it. The regulatory standard that exists fails to capture the need for acquiring the necessary equipment for cleaner production. Suppliers do not provide substitutes for the hazardous chemicals needed for production and sometimes come up with cheaper, substandard and highly inefficient cleaner production technology that is affordable but does not produce the desired results. They are complex in design and maintenance becomes very expensive and cumbersome putting into consideration that a plant might shut down if there is a hitch in the cleaner system. Most SMEs lack external financial sources as most investors go for large enterprises with a goal to get high returns. There is bias against the small medium sized enterprises because many investors find it risky to cash in. governments should not aspire to reduce prices of environmentally unfriendly materials but rather try to reduce the prices of non-toxic substitutes.
In most countries especially Europe and Australia, absence of markets for recycled goods is a major barrier towards cleaner production. This discourages many firms to recycle their waste externally. For a suitable recycling process, the markets should not be supply driven but demand driven. The global economic cycles influences the national economic cycles and therefore in times of recession firm find the need to cut costs and the only way to do so without interfering with the demand and supply is do a way with the cleaner production processes temporarily or even for good depending on the after effects of the recession.
Drivers and motivators for cleaner production
Despite all these barriers many organizations are going to great lengths to motivate SMEs and drive them towards cleaner productions. Howgrave-Graham and van Berkel (2007, 2) found that Environmental systems of management like BS 7750 and ISO 14000 play major roles. Such systems integrate the mindset of cleaner production and change the priorities and management policies within the firms. An even better driver is the voluntary initiatives by the responsible SMEs. This can benefit the firms through favourable relations with the public, improved corporate moral and financial savings. Firms are encouraged to reduce the amount of their toxic releases voluntarily. Environmental management being incorporated into a firm's management system is an equally good driver. The senior staff should show commitment towards the cause and the rest will follow suit. Innovative government regulations if will implemented coupled with pollution prevention will also motivate firms towards cleaner production (Cote´, Booth and Louis 2006, 4). There should be an outline of the permitted discharges and the procedure of dealing with the polluting discharges and emissions. The government and institutions in charge should set targets that do not bound legally so that the firms will decide the cost effective method of meeting the said targets. Economic incentives such as reducing taxes, licenses and subsidies should be crafted for firms willing to embrace any form of cleaner production. The government should issue pollution permits expensively to encourage it. On the other hand introduction of incentives such as elevation of taxes on activities and materials which are harmful to the environment. Finally the most fundamental of drivers to cleaner production within SMEs is training, education and awareness programs. This is critical in changing the attitudes of firms to the environment. If the message is delivered to the intended target audience then the strategy should be a great success.
Small medium sized enterprises benefits considerably from implementing environmental management systems whether formal or informal. Nevertheless there are also disadvantages that occur due to this. The SMEs have external and internal barriers that inhibit their move towards cleaner production but it is the internal barriers that significantly impede the progress. The arrogant and ignorant attitude towards the environment causes the collapse of the efforts to cleaner production before it even takes off. Customers do not realize that they play the most important role in implementing the environmental management systems and that is the reason why they do not exert pressure on the SMEs to consider the environment (Ruth Hillary 2004, 7-8). This is a process that involves the entire chain of business and the sooner we realize this, the better for the sake of our environment.