Understanding the innovation-driven sustainability of Chinese SMEs from central China: a missing piece of the jigsaw

Sun, Huan (2022) Understanding the innovation-driven sustainability of Chinese SMEs from central China: a missing piece of the jigsaw. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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This research addressed the question “How CSMEs achieve systematic IDS?” and aimed to develop a systematic and comprehensive theoretical understanding in relation to the CSME’s IDS definition, motivation, adoption and measurement. It had become significant that this was under-researched in prior studies. In particular, the prior studies in the innovation and sustainability domain have mainly focused on the antecedents of SMEs’ sustainable behaviours, like barriers and drivers, whereas the process of how innovation-driven behaviours can lead to sustainability for SMEs and the relevant measuring criteria were under-researched. In addition, research has been mainly focused on Western SMEs from Europe and North America (Moon & Shen, 2010), and the mainstream theory has largely focused on large enterprises (Halme & Korpela, 2014); therefore, SMEs’ IDS was less well-understood and documented, particularly in the context of emerging markets and economies, such as China.

The interpretivism philosophy that the researcher held encouraged her to choose an inductive method and conduct qualitative research, followed by choosing a social constructionism epistemological perspective and then adapting the multi-case study method as the research strategy for this study. The semi-structured interview was used to collect qualitative data, whilst secondary data was collected to supplement the primary research. Overall, 54 people were interviewed, and multi-case studies were conducted that cross-analysed 12 SMEs. King and Brooks’ (2017) model was used to guide the process of template analysis.

Based on empirical evidence and template analysis, a systematic and comprehensive understanding in relation CSMEs’ systematic IDS emerged. In detail, several key themes, including CS definition in China’s context, the relationship between innovation and CS, the motives, the actions in each adoption stage and their influencing factors, as well as the measurements, were explored in-depth and analysed.

By applying multi-level analysis and interpreting data from different theoretical perspectives, the findings from this research filled the identified research gaps and expanded the knowledge of SMEs’ IDS. Furthermore, the findings of this study offered practical and systematic methods for practitioners such as SMEs in unfavourable regions to achieve CS towards innovation. And other stakeholders who want to engage in this process in the future actively, such as the Chinese Government or supply chain players, can have a better recognition of their role. In addition, for researchers who will select China as their targeted context, this research, especially the methodology chapter and appendixes, discussed and presented a practical research method to collect and analyse empirical evidence there.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: innovation practice, corporate sustainability, CSR, ESG, case study
Subjects: N100 Business studies
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Newcastle Business School
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2024 08:55
Last Modified: 31 Jan 2024 09:00
URI: https://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/51684

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