Sustainability Practices and Performance in European Small-and-Medium Enterprises: Insights from Multiple Case Studies

Andreas Moursellas, Debashree De, Thomas Wurzer, Antonios Skouloudis, Gerald Reiner, Atanu Chaudhuri, Theodoros Manousidis, Chrisovalantis Malesios*, Konstantinos Evangelinos, Prasanta Kumar Dey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


: The advancement of sustainability trajectories is a critical challenge for most of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs require specific considerations with regard to business methodologies for achieving and enhancing sustainability, since their business case is far from similar to larger counterparts. As a consequence, tools for implementation of sustainability practices within SMEs need to recognize these differences as well and take into account the intrinsic characteristics and special needs of these enterprises accordingly. This paper reports findings from a multiple case study survey aiming to explore new directions for enhancing the sustainability levels demonstrated by European SMEs. Case studies were conducted in SMEs from four European countries (Denmark, Austria, Greece, and the UK) attempting to shed light on the implementation status of sustainability practices within their business core design and suggest ways of transferring such approaches to other SMEs. In this context, three key questions guided the study — What is the current status of sustainability practices by European SMEs?, what are the emerging issues, setbacks and opportunities towards sustainability practices in SMEs?, and what strategies, resources, and competences may facilitate effective sustainability embeddedness in SMEs? Face-to-face interviews were conducted with owners and managers of the selected SMEs to better understand their attitude and performance in terms of implementing sustainability practices. Findings allow highlighting key sustainability practices as well as drivers and barriers that stimulate or hamper respectively the sustainability practices implementation. While findings reveal a considerable variation in viewpoints among the interviewed SMEs, we identify a strong orientation and momentum towards sustainability endorsement. The paper concludes with implications for policy and management planning and an overarching aim to increase awareness and consideration of sustainability aspects in European SMEs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)835-860
Number of pages26
JournalCircular Economy and Sustainability
Issue number2
Early online date22 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © The Author(s) 2022. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made.

Open access funding provided by HEAL-Link Greece This research has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No. 788692.


  • Sustainability practices
  • European small-and-medium-sized enterprises
  • Sustainability performance
  • Barriers
  • Drivers
  • Multiple case study research


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