An Investigation into Improving the Sustainability of Small and Medium Size Enterprises
: Rationalised Life Cycle Assessment Approaches in Service Industries

  • Charmaine Martin

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This research aims to determine whether rationalised life cycle assessment approaches (RLCAAs) are useful and suitable techniques to measure the environmental impacts of small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) from service industries. RLCAAs are simplified; less resource intensive techniques; that do not measure exclusively carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) but consider the wider environmental impact details. There is limited research on suitable techniques that measure the wider environmental impacts of service industry SMEs; however, with increasing pressures on accountability, it is important for businesses to recognise these impacts. This study provides an interdisciplinary assessment on such SMEs by using a range of appraisal tools and approaches and using primary data collected from owner-managers and employees. The results suggest SMEs do not adopt a strategic approach to environmental matters and that the respondent companies produce on average 70t CO2e a year.A qualitative assessment undertaken from a roundtable discussion found amongst employees concern, that using CO2e only, as a quantifying metric to gauge impacts, loses wider impact details. Life cycle assessments seek to acknowledge wider environmental impact details, are not promoted to SMEs because they are resource intensive and too complex, to be of practical use. The criticisms are pertinent relative to a ‘cradle to grave’ quantitative assessment. However, in terms of RLCAAs their specific application and benefits to SMEs is unknown Two RLCAAs were configured and tested upon three-service industry case studies; a packing, film and online distance learning establishment. One a magnitude, the other a pragmatic approach differed in the use of qualitative criteria; demonstrated by similar findings, with transport, energy and equipment identified as core emitters, less time consuming approaches can be used effectively by SMEs. In conclusion, both RLCAAs would prove useful at raising environmental awareness, assessing aspects and highlighting impacts thereby, potentially improving the sustainability of SMEs.
Date of Award23 Nov 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorMarcelle McManus (Supervisor) & Sally Clift (Supervisor)

Cite this