The importance of economic growth within the current economic and political debate is striking. Growth is believed to solve most problems in European states, including high levels of public debt, high unemployment, or a lack of global competitiveness and investment attractiveness. There is not much debate, however, asking why growth is so indispensable both for states and companies. Given the biophysical, societal, and even economic limits to the growth paradigm, this question is more than overdue.
Some strands of research have started to question the dominant growth discourse in the past decades – especially after the financial crisis. What is, however, largely missing from this literature is a practical application of growth-criticism to the firm level. Therefore, this study aims at closing the abovementioned gap in research. In doing so, it first identifies which (positive and negative) expectations companies associate with growth. By using ‘Q methodology’ and questioning owner-managers of producing firms, we find that employee well-being, innovativeness, and a strive for market power are important reasons to follow a growth path.
The second part of this study deals with with companies that actively decided to maintain their current level of production. The aim of this part is to investigate potential characteristics and strategies of such non-growing firms. In-depth interviews with owner-managers reveal that many strategies such as quality leadership or maintaining a special firm culture are central for the success of these firms. Moreover, they show that the owner-managers underlying values and goals determine the strategies as well as their relationship to growth.
This media entry was a contribution to the special session „Challenging the Status Quo“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.