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Sustainability Knowledge Management in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises: Investigating the Effects of Sustainability Management Tools

This PhD thesis examines the connections between sustainability knowledge management (SKM) and sustainability management tools in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). While previous literature has established that knowledge is essential for the application of sustainability management tools, the effects of such tools on knowledge management are under-researched in the sustainability context. Drawing on multiple academic papers and utilizing various research methods, including a systematic literature review, several quantitative surveys and a multiple case study approach, the thesis systematically examines how such tools can facilitate the identification, acquisition, conversion, application and retention of sustainability knowledge, and potentially lead to the improvement of SKM effectiveness in SMEs. Furthermore, it examines how support functions for sustainability management tools and SKM correspond with each other.
The findings reveal that sustainability management tools facilitate the SKM processes (identification, acquisition, conversion, application and retention), and align with the support factors (e.g. top management support, shared vision, employee qualifications) to advance SKM in SMEs. Particularly, such tools permit the institutionalization of sustainability knowledge into the daily routines and practices in SMEs. Additionally, tools create a support structure for SKM, embedding and preserving sustainability knowledge in documents, policies, procedures and norms for an enterprise’s collective knowledge for sustainability management. The thesis concludes with complementing areas of future research and offers practical implications for SME management.