Analyzing various authors, it is evident that there are several approaches to the theme: ecological and environmental; human, social and citizenship-related; operations- and production-oriented, involving production processes and the development of technologies related to streamlined production Manzini and Vezzoli, ; and works that link competitiveness with the economy, environment and society threesome, or with organizational strategies, innovation processes and learning Gladwin, Kennelly and Krause, , Banerjee, , Baker, et. Thus, one sees that the idea that sustainable development can be tied to organizational competitiveness actually has a logical basis.
The approaches can be analyzed in a complementary manner, according to Fleury and Fleury However, it is fitting to conduct a critical analysis of what global competitiveness consists of, since its conceptualization and its measuring are still vague and inadequate. Firms create competitive advantages through international strategy and the strengthening of their internal competitive advantages. To be competitive, a firm must make strategic plans involving a series of studies on how best to join international trade.
This strategy may help it to maintain the competitive advantages that it has already acquired in the domestic market. Determining a firm's internationalization strategy involves two different dimensions: the configuration of its activities localization of the value chain activities, and concentration or dispersion of its operations and the coordination of these activities similar or linked activities conducted at its various subsidiaries Porter, For Prahalad and Doz , the three types of strategy are not mutually exclusive.
The same firm can concurrently use various types of strategy in the same operation. It becomes necessary to employ several types of analytical tools and models to evaluate the strategic decision and to constantly monitor such matters and the prevalence of the management's analytical skills in this process.
Modern firms need to unfold their resources effectively, which implies in both the firms and their management having entrepreneurial characteristics, such as concern for the organization's quality, the capability to devise and implement complex strategies, learning about the environment on an ongoing basis, suitable development of the strategies, and the effective use of resources. This research was of a quantitative nature and involved a survey. According to Babbie , surveys enable one to create descriptive statements about a given population.
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To this end, from August to December , we applied a data collection tool to Brazilian firms to identify how managing external information sources about innovation influences the innovative development of the firms covered by our research. The main purpose of the quantitative stage was to contribute to the inferences about the relation between corporate management practices regarding sustainable development and firms' competitiveness, based on quantitative data.
From the concepts and information obtained from the theoretical fundaments, a conceptual model of the basic research was designed, whose key indicators and variables are presented in Figure 1. Figure 1 - Conceptual research model. For the purposes of this study, corporate management geared to sustainable development involves the main management practices that condition the competitiveness of firms.
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These practices influence the capacity to innovate and to add value to products, as well as the proactive servicing of the market's social and environmental needs. Figure 2 - Dimensions and variables of the study. The research universe comprised Brazilian industrial firms with characteristics and other indications that pointed to an emphasis on innovation activities.
This population was selected as the research target because it is in this type of firm that the management of external technological information sources and the ensuing concerns and effects upon competitiveness occur most strongly. The ANPEI corporate database covers 95 Brazilian industrial firms and services firms involved with technological innovation.
However, given the research objectives, the database used was cut down to 68 firms, so as to cover only those engaged in industrial or industrial processing activities. The enterprises that only provided consulting services in the fields of technological and legal support were excluded. Therefore, one must stress that the sample was intentional and opportunistic. Thus, the results obtained cannot be generalized to firms other than those in the sample. This notwithstanding, as the studied firms showed a high level of interest in technological innovation, the results obtained may suggest what happens among Brazilian innovative firms in general.
The questionnaire targeted the people responsible for the technology area, directors or CEOs. It was sent through the Internet via e-mail and website access. Data collection was conducted during 75 days in October and November of During this time, besides e-mail contact, the firms were contacted by phone, with a view to getting the largest possible number of responses. The total number of firms that responded was high in relation to the database used.
One must also take into account the difficulty of extracting information from a group of firms that stands out in the technological innovation area, where secret agreements are fairly common. To this, one must add the implications and issues surrounding firms' performance, given that in highly competitive sectors such information is often confidential.
The univariate analysis of the data obtained was conducted based on the verification of central tendency measures, which enables one to identify the main frequencies observed for a given variable. Based on the data obtained, we will now move on to its analysis, examining first those characteristics that form the profile of the firms in the sample. Below, we present the values of the variables regarding international activities, technological innovation management, socio-environmental management and performance, and corporate competitiveness.
Most firms are large number of employees and revenue and belong to sectors that are highly sophisticated technologically.
The group of firms, therefore, has an attractive profile for the identification of the characteristics proposed in this study. This information might indicate a significant progress in the internationalization of the researched group of firms. The firms' activities abroad were assessed by analyzing the following variables: the start-up of enterprise internationalization; the average number of employees abroad; the firm's main strategy in the international markets in which it is active; subsidiaries abroad and the countries in which the firm is active; reasons why the firm turned to foreign markets; and the scope of its foreign market goals.
This indicates an effective enhancement of Brazilian firms' internationalization in the last decade. Table 1 shows the number of Brazilian and foreign employees of the Brazilian firms that are active in the international market. The number of Brazilian and foreign employees of Brazilian firms abroad was not very large: most had 10 to employees.
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This is probably so because of the strategies employed in the foreign operations, with the firms exporting through intermediaries. Only a part of the firms chose strategies that required setting up foreign operations involving a greater volume of financial and human resources Table 3. Furthermore, one should highlight that resorting to partnership mechanisms to operate abroad, such as joint ventures, seems to be rare.
The main system for maintaining activities abroad is for the firm to establish a subsidiary of which it is the sole owner Table 2. Among the researched firms with international operations, and South America, Europe and Asia. Table 3 data confirm firms' preference for less risky, more The main factors that lead firms to turn to foreign mar-conventional strategies in their foreign operations, such kets as well as the targets that they plan to achieve are as exporting with or without intermediation.
The researched firms' behavior regarding the types of technological information sources used is presented in Table 5. Opportunities in new markets, business diversification and technological innovations are the main elements influencing the decision to operate in international markets.
Market share growth and positioning are the principal targets that explain firms' activities abroad. The data obtained corroborate the conclusions of several researchers, who have stated that the technological information sources that firms use the most are internal, although there is a tendency to expand the use of external sources of information. The sources derived from relationships with the external community include competitors; research institutes; scientific and professional conferences; visits to the group's other firms; testing, assay and certification institutes; communities of practice; hiring of external talent; visits to other firms and licensors; consumers; scientific and professional associations; and information networks online databases.
This illustrated the relatively great importance that firms ascribe to attending events of a technical and scientific nature, joining associations, resorting to research in scientific publications and making technical visits. These results are in line with the research conclusions of those authors who state that publications and technical visits are among the chief sources of information used by Brazilian firms.
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These data are also in line with the conclusions of many studies, which indicate that firms ascribe little importance to technology obtained from contract institutions. Moreover, the information suggests that the firms have little experience of acquiring technology and information via licenses and patents, due to the difficulties and risks inherent to such practices. Leading users and community networks are fairly specific sources that are still little known and untried by most firms.
The evaluation of the benefits of partnering and of collaboration for innovation activities are shown on Table 6. The researched firms consider all the evaluated benefits of partnering and collaboration in innovation activities important. In a global economy that is fairly sensitive to technological changes and to the scarcity of resources, collaborative activity takes on an increasingly central and decisive character in the activity of innovation.
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This trend is visible in the data obtained, in so far as firms seem to pursue partnering arrangements with the specific aim of developing and absorbing technology more effectively, sharing research facilities and technological information, and improving their market potential. Socio-environmental management was evaluated in relation to social investment, work environment, environmental investment and the socio-environmental reputation of the researched firms. Data on the analysis of the firms' social investment are shown in Table 7.
Social investments are generally of medium to high intensity in the analyzed group of firms that responded to the questions put to them, revealing a high level of commitment to such practices. One can observe, based on the data presented, that the greatest social investments concern basic elements such as food, training and assistance for the family.
One must highlight the high percentage of unanswered questions, which might indicate that some firms do not regard social issues as an investment yet, even within a set of firms that is outstanding in the domestic arena. The image of the firm relative to its work environment is evaluated as being of a high intensity.
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