Measuring sustainability and innovation in Australian SMEs
Sustainable business development is a constant challenge for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Tasks such as the identification of upcoming trends, the capturing of customer requirements and the development of new solutions are a real challenge that is hard to handle besides the daily business and that has to be mastered by all hierarchical levels of the company. Especially in micro and small companies, innovation does not depend on the creativity of the R&D department alone, but is an obligation of all employees. Together with local partners in South Australia, the authors of this paper have developed a measuring tool that helps SMEs to assess their innovation and sustainability capabilities and to identify improvement options. A specific asset of the tool, besides th e sector-independent health check, is that it supports SMEs in getting funds from banks. A problem CEOs have to struggle with in their daily business is to get financing at a short notice for investing in the future of the company. Banks are often not able to understand the significance of a specific investment and its impact on the company success. The newly developed tool helps banks to get a deeper, future-oriented insight in the viability of SMEs. The holistic assessment that captures quantitative and qualitative measures is based on previous research in Europe and assessment frameworks developed for the European market. The project team has adapted these approaches to the needs of Australian SMEs, considering the differences of the Australian economy (e.g. smaller size of Australian SMEs compared to European ones, lower awareness about the importance of environmental aspects) but also cultural differences (such as mechanism of succession planning in Australia). The paper provides an insight into the assessment tool, the research approach and relevant pre-work that formed the basis for the development of the tool.