The Environmental Performance of Home-Based Businesses in Western Australia
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The role and impact of very small firms is usually overlooked by most research into the environmental performance of businesses. This is due in part to their relative invisibility: most of these so-called "micro-enterprises" employ no staff, work from home, and are concentrated in the services sector of the economy. In contrast, most existing studies have examined larger firms in the manufacturing, retail and industrial sectors, where inputs, waste and resource usage are both more easily observed and more frequently measured.In Australia, a micro-enterprise is defined as a business which has less than five employees, or else no staff at all. Of the 1.2 million businesses in the country, more than one million firms are classified as micro-enterprises. The vast majority of these (780,000) are home-based businesses located at the owner's residence.This paper is a report of a recent (May 2002) study into the environmental performance of homebased micro-business in the state of Western Australia. 550 businesses were surveyed, with 95 useable responses received. Six areas of environmental performance were evaluated: donations towards environmental groups and causes; recycling of office paper; lighting usage; the purchasing of environmentally friendly office products; connection to renewable energy options; and the use of low-impact transportation systems (public transport, cycling and walking) for work purposes. It was found that most home-based firms engaged in some form of paper recycling, purchased environmentally-friendly products for office use, and used energy-efficient lighting for their office. However, few firm owners donated to environmental groups, signed up to "green" electricity sources for their power, or used environmentally-friendly transport modes.
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