Business Ecology: The Environmental Considerations of Enterprises in South Western Virginia

Author: Nicole Sabilia
Major: Environmental Studies
Approved: Fall 2017
Status: Completed

Business Ecology sets out to establish how businesses engage with local or broader environmental issues. The project aims to describe the ways in which businesses include environmental considerations in their activities, ranging from environment-related community service, to explicit incorporation of the environment into mission statements or firm identity, and adjustments in organization and practices intended to reduce their ecological footprint. A second goal of the project is to determine the effects of industry, and firm-level factors, on the businesses’ environmental initiatives. The research questions fit into the growing interdisciplinary literature on sustainable business, and fill gaps in the literature regarding these concepts on the microeconomic level. The Roanoke Valley and surrounding area represent a viable setting for exploring these questions empirically, because the municipalities and local chambers of commerce emphasize regional ecological wealth in their own development strategies. At the same time, the economic scene in the area is relatively diverse, with firms operating across three economic sectors—natural resource extraction, manufacturing, and services. The research questions are explored through a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods applied to a collected data set of firms’ environmental practices and other characteristics. The data collection tools include surveys and archival research, for a sample representative of the industries in the area. From a policy standpoint, the findings inform strategies for local sustainable development and provide a picture of the current state of firm-level sustainability in the area. From a scholarly standpoint, the new data and the data collection instruments offer a more nuanced understanding of firm behavior, local sustainability, and motivations behind “going green.”

Final Project Report