Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) represent about 90% of global businesses. SMEs account, on the average, for about 50% of gross domestic product (GDP) of all countries and up to 60% of employment. In South Africa, SMEs account for about 91% of all formally registered business entities, contributing to about 57% of the GDP and providing about 60% of all formal employment. However, SMEs are said to contribute up to 70% of all industrial pollution globally.
SMEs individually perceive little or no impact on the environment and may attempt to relieve themselves of environmental responsibility. Although, the environmental footprint of individual SMEs may be small, collectively they contribute substantially to environmental damage globally.
Research on environmental activities of SMEs is rare and mostly neglected. This research attempts to close this gap by exploring the understanding, practices, barriers and motivation for environmental practices by SMEs in South Africa. This research was realised through semi-structured interviews of nine SMEs located in Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal.