The unfolding COVID-19 pandemic, and the unprecedented social and economic costs it has inflicted, provide an important opportunity to scrutinize the interplay between the resilience of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the resilience of the communities they are embedded in. In this article, we articulate the specific ways that SMEs play a crucial, and underappreciated role in building resilience to human and natural hazards, and provide new opportunities to accelerate the adoption of sustainability practices through the configuration of 'enabling ecosystems' geared towards promoting sustainability in the private sector. We argue that capacity-building and experimentation are not only required within companies, but also throughout this emerging supportive ecosystem of policies, resources (i.e. finance, materials, skills), governance actors, and intermediaries to adequately focus investment, technical capabilities and innovation. Ultimately, we call for a new transdisciplinary action research agenda that centers on SMEs as pivotal actors and amplifiers of community resilience; while recognizing that these firms are themselves in need of support to secure their own capacity to respond to, and transform in light of, crises. This research program calls for recognizing and applying the lessons that the pandemic presents to the urgent need for accelerated climate action. This will be enabled by developing more targeted approaches to collaborative capacity-building activities in SMEs that feed into experimentation and allow for the accelerated adoption of deliberate and strategic resilient business practices and models.
© The Author(s) 2022.