The economic importance of the private sector, such as the contribution of businesses to Gross Domestic Product or to employment creation, is well recognised in research and policy. In the context of significant economic, social and environmental changes such as the economic downturn, public spending cuts, an ageing population and climate change, the broader social and environmental contributions of the private sector to local resilience have begun to be recognised by researchers and policy-makers. However, we lack a detailed understanding of the nature of, and motivations for, these different contributions. This paper discusses the findings of a case study in South Australia which aimed to enhance our understanding of the role of private sector enterprises in local development and resilience. In particular, this article explores What, How and Why questions: What are the economic and social contributions of rural businesses to local resilience?, How are these contributions made? and Why do business owners make these contributions? The findings reveal that rural businesses contribute to local resilience in both direct and indirect ways. Direct contributions include, for example, the creation of local employment and local product and service delivery. Indirect contributions can be understood as the knock-on effect or added value of primary business activities. For example, the provision of employment opportunities helps to reduce the risk of out-migration and depopulation. With reference to the concept of embeddedness, the study demonstrates the importance of the rural context in shaping the behaviour of rural business owners and encouraging them to operate in economically, socially and environmentally responsible ways. However, this is not a passive relationship; rural business owners have the motivation and resources to respond to specific local challenges, opportunities and characteristics, and to proactively and skilfully turn them into entrepreneurial opportunities. As such, they become part of the adaptation process, acting as agents of change in supporting rural resilience. This adaptation process contributes to enhanced community resilience which enables the modification of existing structures and the seeking of solutions to economic, social and environmental challenges. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
- Local (economic, social, environmental) development
- Private sector businesses