The debate on eco-innovation is a recent and emergent topic between practitioners and in the academy. Especially in developing economies, such as in Brazil, this topic is very incipient mainly in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) context. Hence, the purpose of this study is to identify what are the determinant factors for the successful adoption of eco-innovation in Brazilian SMEs. The findings reveal several similarities/differences and intersections/overlaps resulting in a list of sixteen primary determinants. Results also demonstrated that eco-innovations in SMEs may be enabled by breaking away from the immediatist culture, by the participation of SMEs in cooperation networks, by considering the regulations affecting the sector where the SME operates and the applicable legislation, by investing in R&D of innovative technologies in conjunction with external agents, by qualified professionals planning for and implementing eco-innovation and by reinforcing the financial condition of the SMEs. The practical contribution of this study is a consolidated comprehensive framework of eco-innovation to Brazilian SMEs providing important insights and challenges to academics, policy makers, and practitioners, improving the diffusion of eco-innovative practices. Furthermore, others emerging economies will benefit from the findings of our research.
Currently, sustainable development and technological innovation are recurring themes in society, academic and business environments. The first studies of innovation date back to the propositions to categorize the concept of innovation made by Schumpeter (1911) in his book “The Theory of Economic Development” published in Austria. Blackburn (2007, 2008) claims that a definition of environmental sustainability is not yet fully clear in business circles. Additionally, Blackburn (2007) and Carrilo-Hermosilla et al. (2009) discuss some aspects related to the history of sustainability, and refer to the 1972 United Nations Conference on Human Development in Stockholm as the time when the term sustainability first surfaced, a fact that Mendonça et al. (2012) corroborate. Regarding the discussion about integrating innovation and sustainability domains, the first studies published in the literature according to Maçaneiro and Cunha (2012), were carried out by Fussler and James (1996), James (1997) and Rennings (2000). Fussler and James (1996) are credited with having coined the term “eco-innovation” in a book titled “Driving Eco-Innovation: A Breakthrough Discipline for Innovation and Sustainability”. If on the one hand, the theme of innovation has been strictly connected with economic concerns, such as competitiveness, demand and investment, on the other hand, the environmental area has been hard put to incorporate the technological innovation processes. Compared with publications on classical innovation, there are currently only a few studies about the management of technological eco-innovation and its processes (Ozaki et al., 2013; Klewitz and Hansen, 2014). The management of technological eco-innovation and its processes have been widely discussed in the context of large companies, and mainly in industrial and technological sectors. However, the discussion about the impacts in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) is still very incipient and inconclusive. Moreover, in the field of environmental sustainability, there are limited researches about the integration and comprehension of these two themes specific to SMEs context (Klewitz and Hansen, 2014; Sabadie, 2014; Borghesi et al., 2015). Nevertheless, the debate of innovation in SMEs is generally focused on other topics, such as open innovation (Brunswicker and Vanhaverbeke, 2015; Wynarczyk et al., 2013), product innovation (Massis et al., 2015; Maes and Sels, 2014), SMEs networks (Gronum et al., 2012), innovation process (Love and Roper, 2015), internationalization (Raymond and St-Pierre, 2013) and others.