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The role of staff assignment in implementing energy-conserving practices in small- and medium-sized firms: an empirical analysis based on data from a Japanese survey


The previous literature has studied barriers to energy efficiency in firms. While there are several studies with some focus on the manufacturing sector in Europe, the corresponding literature in Asia is still nascent. Using a unique dataset that contains a large number of firms belonging to the service and manufacturing sectors in Japan, this study contributes to filling this gap in the literature. The uniqueness of the data set allows us to distinguish small firms from both medium-sized and large firms. We evaluated the implementation of environmental practices, focusing on barriers to energy efficiency, and found that in the implementation of energy-conserving practices, small firms lag far behind large firms. We also found positive impacts from staff assignment on this goal. By contrast, firms were less likely to implement these practices if senior executives were in charge of energy efficiency issues. The data analysis further revealed that a limited number of SMEs and of service sector firms assign dedicated staff to achieve energy efficiency. The estimation results suggest that a policy measure may stimulate the development of economically feasible energy-conserving practices within SMEs if it encourages them to develop their organisational capacity to assign staff dedicated to promoting energy efficiency.

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    Firms in this study were categorised according to the basic law regulating small businesses in Japan. Firms with over 300 employees in the manufacturing and other industries, those with over 100 employees in the wholesale and service industries and those over 50 employees in the retail industry were categorised as large. Firms with fewer than 5 employees in the commercial and service industries or fewer than 20 employees in the manufacturing and other industries were considered small. Last, firms that were smaller than large firms but larger than small firms, as defined above, were considered medium-sized firms.


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This work was supported by the Japan Science and Technology Agency, CREST Grant Number JPMJCR15K2.

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Correspondence to Masayo Wakabayashi.

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Wakabayashi, M., Arimura, T.H. The role of staff assignment in implementing energy-conserving practices in small- and medium-sized firms: an empirical analysis based on data from a Japanese survey. Energy Efficiency 13, 1763–1780 (2020).

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  • Energy conservation
  • Small- and medium-sized enterprises
  • Commercial sector
  • Barriers to energy efficiency
  • Organisational capacities