David versus Goliath: Harnessing the Power of SMEs in the Fight for Sustainability

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Dana Coble, Consultant, Canada
Anshuman Khare, Athabasca University, Canada
Published: August 2014

Citation: Coble, D., & Khare, A. (2014). David versus Goliath: Harnessing the Power of SMEs in the Fight for Sustainability. IAFOR Journal of Business & Management, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijbm.1.1.04


Climate change, resource depletion, environmental and economic disparity are the twenty-first century Goliaths. Governments, NGOs and corporations when “fighting” the Goliaths often overlook small and medium enterprises, the twenty-first century Davids. SMEs have a substantial aggregate impact and are frequently referred to as the “economic engine” of a country. In this conceptual paper, the authors demonstrate that, due to SMEs’ aggregate impact and economic functions, their participation in sustainable development is essential. Most SMEs are intimate with their customers, rely heavily on their local economy, and their owner-managers have stronger motivations than mere profit maximization. This provides the incentive for them to participate in the betterment of their communities. While governments, NGOs, and large corporations are increasingly recognizing SMEs’ importance, there is frequently a gap between their rhetoric and actions in engaging them. SMEs themselves find the concept of SD ambiguous and the terminology inappropriate to their operations. Those that strive to adopt sustainable practices and develop sustainable initiatives frequently are unclear on the appropriate tools or lack the resources with which to do so. This paper identifies key factors that will enable SMEs to not only become sustainable enterprises, but also to champion SD.


SMEs, climate change, resource depletion, environmental and economic disparity, sustainable development