Strategic Bridging: The Collaboration Between Environmentalists and Business in the Marketing of Green Products

FRANCES WESTLEY McGill University HARRIE VREDENBURG University oj Calgary

A case of interorganizational collaboration in Canada involving a retail grocery chain and several environmental groups is analyzed. In this case, one environmental group attempted to act as a bridge between business and environmentalists by endorsing a line of "green" products. Based on material drawn from news reports and personal interviews, the authors use the case to illuminate the concept of strategic bridging as a distinctive form of collaboration. Like other forms of collaboration, bridging relies on collaborative negotiations and "back-home" commitment to the outcome of the negotiations and" back-home" commitment to the outcome of the negotiations. It differs from other forms -such as joint ventures, multiparty task forces, and mediation -with respect to the degree of organizational interpenetration involved in the negotiations and the complexity of the problem of gaining back-home commitment. Based on their analysis, the authors speculate that strategic bridging is more likely to occur when the problem domain is underorganized and the willingness of the stakeholders to collaborate is low. Implications for future research are discussed.

Management theory, as embodied in such substantive fields as business policy and marketing, has long viewed organizations as single units operating in potentially
Frances Westley is an associate professor of strategy with the Faculty of Management at McGill University, 1001 Sherbrook Street West, Room 435, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A IG5. Harrie Vredenburg is an associate professor of marketing and strategy with the Faculty of Management at the University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive N. w., Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N IN4.
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March 1991

hostile and uncharted environments. According to this "egocentric" perspective, for organizations to survive and prosper, they must minimize threats, maximize opportunities, and manipulate stakeholders for maximum advantage (Astley, 1984). This view of organizations has shaped theory and practice in management, producing in the extreme a "conception of managers as pioneers confronting a faceless environment" (p. 533) and exploiting it. Therefore, it is not surprising that collaboration among organizations in strategy or marketing has received little attention in such a framework. For various reasons, this competitive framework has been challenged in recent years in theory and practice. Beginning with Emery and Trist's (1965) seminal article, some have argued that cooperation among organizations in similar domains is imperative to control environmental turbulence. Recently, authors have suggested that collaboration among private-sector organizations might in fact operate as a new strategic tool, a means of gaining efficiency and flexibility in times of rapid change (Child & Smith, 1987; Kanter, 1989; Miles & Snow, 1984). Empirical studies of linkages among organizations indicate that organizations are much more embedded than the purely competitive model indicates (Child & Smith, 1987; Granovettor, 1985). Finally, a recognition of the systemic or global nature of many contemporary problems facing public and private-sector organizations and society as a whole has resulted in a normative call for interorganizational, as well as intersectorial, collaboration. Such collaborations, which might include a variety of partnerships, strategic alliances, and interfirm networks, would seem to be a critical structural innovation, designed to solve the kinds of ill-defined problems that depend on multiple perspectives and resources for resolution (Gray, 1989). On the other hand, the emergence of such collaborations and their viability would seem to depend on a variety of complex macro- and microprocesses, the dynamics of which are only beginning to be mapped (Gray, 1985,1989; Kanter, 1989; Waddock, 1989). This article explores a highly publicized attempt at collaboration between two sectors: the environmental movement and the retail food industry. The attempt took place in Canada in 1989 and involved one of Canada's leading grocery chains, Loblaws Inc., and a number of environmental groups with headquarters in Ontario. The article focuses on the dynamics of the attempt, in which one group, Pollution Probe, agreed to endorse a number of products that were to be launched in an "environmentally friendly" or "green" line by Loblaws - in effect, electing to playa bridging role between the environmental movement and the private sector. This attempt brought considerable criticism from several other Canadian environmental organizations, most notably Greenpeace. We begin by discussing the concept of bridging as a distinctive form of collaboration and then present the Canadian context of the case, to understand the relationship between environmental groups and the business community in Canada. We present a detailed description of the dynamics of the case, analyzing it in terms of the dynamics and the larger, structural implications of the outcome. The article concludes with a discussion of the implications for collaborative theory in general and bridging in particular.

it can function as a bridge for other organizations. Trist. and mediations. 1983). O'Toole & O'Toole. power. 1981). 1989). stakeholders in such domains work to map the boundaries and structures of the domain . wide in scope.Westley. to define bridging as a distinctive configuration of collaborative negotiation related to. its members must understand the diverse perspectives they are trying to integrate. It is helpful. 1984). Theoretically. p. but separate from. p. Vredenburg / STRATEGIC BRIDGING 67 OVERVIEW Strategic Bridging: A Special Form of Collaboration Bridging organizations "span the social gaps among organizations and constituencies to enable coordinated action" (Brown. joint ventures. 23). language. For this article we use Gray's (1989) definition of collaboration as a "process through which parties who see different aspects of a problem can constructively explore their differences and search for solutions that go beyond their own limited vision of what is possible" (p. A complicating factor is that. culture. 1989. the more difficult the bridging problem (Brown. strategic alliances.. Collaboration is most likely to occur when problems are complex. bridging organizations face many potential problems. allying. This process has been identified as a critical function of collaborations such as multiparty task forces and community projects and as a central dimension of collaborative negotiations (Gray. The farther apart these organizations are and the more focused the objective of the specific operation. roundtables and task forces). values. they must find mechanisms to integrate organizations that may be widely disparate in wealth. Essentially. these will seriously weaken the organization's bridging ability. interests. 1989. As described by Brown (1989). 5). 1965. and beyond the means of single organizations to solve unilaterally. and structural characteristics. Through collaborative negotiations. Despite their potential strategic importance. 1988) or PALS (pooling. One way in which it varies from other forms is in the degree of interpenetration involved. and linking entities). 5). 1983). both of which are hailed as alternatives to large hierarchies and as keys to social and technological innovation (Kanter. They are central to the emergence offunctional networks that span or link organizations into value-added chains (Lawrence & Johnston. 1989. such entities as multiparty collaboration (e. however. any collaboration can be considered a bridge in the sense that by definition the bridging process connects entities previously considered separate.a process that has been described as arriving at a "negotiated order of the domain" (Gray. 1989. bridging represents a distinctive form of collaborative activity. They are essential to establishing cooperative links that help stabilize turbulent environments (Emery & Trist. Such situations have been termed problem domains (Trist. As long as the bridging organization can continue to integrate these perspectives internally. and in the particular balance between the processes of inter- . Numerous writers have argued that bridging organizations are crucial to contemporary societies. Miles & Snow.g. for an organization to qualify for a bridging role. But if any factional contentions arise different from the viewpoint.

as a form of collaboration. therefore. In addition. Constituents . Bridging organizations. task force. Therefore. In this sense.e. in addition to the difficulties of integrating disparate constituencies mentioned by Brown (1989) as a key part of all bridging situations and most other forms of collaboration. like mediators. even when their motivation for accepting the role may be to maintain the status quo or to enhance their position in an emerging order. they must secure commitment to these negotiations from their home organizations. but because mediators do not act as stakeholders. Unlike mediators. This dual role creates a stressful situation for bridging organizations that is not faced by mediators: that of trying to "sell" negotiation outcomes to their "home" organizations to secure commitment (Bingham & Miller. 1989). Interpenetration refers to the process whereby stakeholders seeking to collaborate in a problem domain engage in direct or mutual negotiations. it is important that the mediator not appear to disputing parties to be placing self-interest over problem resolution in the process of mediation (Gray..such as a joint venture. they negotiate bilaterally with key stakeholders. bridging implies linking. the bridging organizations acts as both broker and agent in the problem domain. Bridges provide no such communal focus. they engage in the incremental creation of a negotiated order that may potentially permit greater collaboration among all stakeholders. bridges face external and internal ambivalence. do not act as stakeholders in the process of mediation. do act as stakeholders. and/or create or employ a third party as a linking device. Gray. they bring home more than one discrete set of negotiations (although not necessarily simultaneously). Bridging. Figure 1 illustrates four configurations of collaborative negotiation and commitment that characterize these different degrees of interpenetration. Like negotiators in joint ventures and multiparty pooling the resources of the island organizations. which create a third party . In such cases. By its very name. Carpenter & Kennedy. however. 1984. Instead. bridging is unlike joint ventures or multiparty collaborations. bridging organizations must engage in multiple negotiations. brokers) among domain stakeholders. Although self-interest is an important motivation for individuals and organizations accepting a mediator role (Touval & Zaltman. which makes the process of commitment more complex and potentially fragile. the third party represents the arena and is the communal focus for the collaborative negotiations of all identified stakeholders. In the process. or project team . Negotiators in joint ventures and multiparty task forces also face this problem. Mediators. 1988. 1989). We contend that bridging is characterized by the presence of a third party. which is historically separate and distinct in terms of resources and personnel from the "island" organizations it seeks to link. They enter into discrete bilateral collaborative negotiations with stakeholders that direct interaction and exchange similar to those characterizing negotiations among stakeholders in a joint venture or multiparty project group. In this sense. bridging organizations enter collaborative negotiations to forward their own ends as well as to serve as links (i. pool resources. however. for no "communal" vehicle exists to conduct these negotiations. Like mediators. 1985). in a sense has the worst of both worlds. for them this problem is considerably reduced.68 JOURNAL OF APPLIED BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE March 1991 organizational collaboration and intraorganizational commitment building that is determined by that degree of interpenetration.

it is interesting that organizations accept it. a failure in bridging may also result in the demise of the bridging organization itself. members of the organization may be ambivalent about the importance of the bridging role in relation to other organizational roles and unwilling to commit to the agreements that have been negotiated. These additional strains are a potential structural weaknesses in the bridging organization itself.Westley. Vredenburg / STRATEGICBRIDGING 69 Multiparty Roundtables Projects Task Forces Joint Ventures Strategic Alliances Strategic Bridging Mediation Legend: e= • Collaborative Commitment negotiation building = FIGURE 1: Patterns ofColJaborative Negotiation and Commitment Building who stand to benefit from bridging may be uncompromising in negotiations over values and process. a breakdown is signaled by the rupture of the negotiations among the organizations. Given the inherent fragility of the bridging role. although many bridging organizations identified to date . Indeed.such as . In multiparty or joint venture collaborations.

we argue that it is equally possible to accept a bridging role voluntarily. the Ministry of Community Development and Women's Affairs. An example of a maintenance-oriented bridge is a lighting company that coordinates relationships among lighting suppliers to consolidate its position with them. The supplier extends information as a gesture of goodwill. These three distinctions . a zoo director might volunteer to bring together representatives of national parks and tourism companies (groups with opposing views on wildlife and natural resources) in an effort to protect animals while boosting the economy of the region through tourism. Unlike most mandated or designed bridges.mandated versus voluntary. Distinguishing among dominant motives. each of which could benefit from knowledge of the other's activities. motives are often mixed and may be viewed as points on a continuum. which we label altruistic bridges and egoistic bridges (see Table 1). An example is a clinic that takes on outreach activities to bridge the gap between available social services and the needs of elderly patients: It negotiates with service providers and recipients directly and hopes that funds and resources will be provided so that it can relinquish this role and other parties can fiII it. this group's motivation was to help solve the problem of village poverty by promoting savings and investment . 1989). however. Like many mandated or designed bridges. In practice. designed to fill a necessary niche permanently so that the current structure of relationships can simultaneously continue to exist and solve a mutual problem. Much like a designed or mandated bridge. problem focused versus self-serving. like many designed bridging organizations. as intended to change social structures and develop a problem domain to make direct collaboration among stakeholders possible in the future. An example of an altruistic bridge is the Savings Development Foundation of Zimbabwe (Brown. the zoo benefits from the collaboration between the tourism industry and the parks system. transformational versus maintenance oriented-cluster into two idealtypical configurations. Voluntary bridges ma y also be maintenance oriented .70 JOURNAL OF APPLIED BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE TABLEl March 1991 Two Types of Bridges (based on motivation) Egoistic Voluntary Self-serving Maintenance oriented Altruistic Designed or mandated Problem focused Transformative those described by Brown (1989) . various international donors. is useful for analyzing the process involved. For example. For example. however. may volunteer to serve as an information conduit between the companies and thereby enhance its value to them. A voluntary bridging organization may. the Ministry of Agriculture.1 This organization was designed to act as a bridge among members of the local female population. view its role as transformationalthat is.that is. an organization may volunteer for a bridging role out of a sense of altruism because of its commitment to problem solution.are deliberately designed or mandated to fill a bridging role. and a fertilizer company. a supplier to two competing companies. a voluntary bridge may also act out of self-interest to defend or improve its own strategic position.

mixing motives and missions. Greenpeace. We now examine the collaboration between Pollution Probe and Loblaws and the ensuing conflict with Greenpeace. The suppliers volunteered for the bridging role out of self-interest: They wanted to increase their value to their customers.Westley. When the environmental crisis was reconceptualized so that the demands of development and the need for economic growth needed to be balanced . and analysts. business and environmental groups have maintained their distance from each other. the bridging organization must also create ongoing intraorganizational commitment. 1987) who aided in a much-needed transfer of design concepts and technical knowledge in the chocolate-making industry. and affected the outcome of the collaboration effort. In contrast. and they were prepared to occupy the bridging role permanently if needed. representatives of other environmental groups that were involved. Their mission was the transformation of the rural economy. The result has been a tradition of hostility and mistrust between business and environmentalists. it is complex. has positioned itself as a watchdog with a mission to uncover and expose destructive industry plans and practices. which has made collaboration inappropriate and unlikely. many bridging organizations deviate from these ideal types. In response. a good example of an egoistic bridging organization is a group of equipment suppliers (Child & Smith.particularly many multiparty task forces and joint ventures . strategic bridgers elect to play a linking role for altruistic or egoistic motives. Despite the difficulty of balancing these demands. most private-sector organizations-except for those subject to governmental regulation or pressure group tactics . competitive chocolate-manufacturing industry. It differs from some forms of collaboration . strategic bridging shares several characteristics of other forms of collaboration: It has the important social function of creating a negotiated order. and it requires the cooperation of previously independent organizations. government officials. With the advent of the Brundtland Commission in 1986 and the widespread redefinition of environmental problems as problems of sustainable development. and they viewed themselves as a temporary device to aid the development of local autonomy. CASE STUDY The Canadian Context Historically in that it links organizations that will not or cannot collaborate directly by means of discrete bilateral negotiations. Unlike mediators. the bestknown national environmental group. Until recently.have viewed environmental issues as peripheral to their strategic agenda. a new problem domain was created in which both environmentalists and business were clearly stakeholders. however. We constructed the case presented below based on news reports and 14 in-depth interviews with members of Greenpeace and Pollution Probe. In practice. This collaboration and its aftermath were highly publicized in Canada. In sum. Vredenburg / STRATEGIC BRIDGING 71 in agriculture. Their motives were maintenance oriented in that they profited from a healthy. This confusion occurred in the case of Pollution Probe. employees of Loblaws.

conservation. environmentalists. the issue was defined as one of concern to business and environmental groups alike. In addition. Finally. who saw sustainable development as an ideological cover for business interests. One such constraint was the fear that the concepts of sustainable development and green business could turn environmental groups and businesses into direct competitors.could be threatened by a close alliance between business and environmentalists. appropriate language. however . anticonsumerism .72 JOURNAL OF APPLIED BEHAVlORAL SCIENCE March 1991 with the need to expand or at least preserve ecological resources. This redefinition threatened many of the more radical environmental groups.decision by consensus. it needed the support of environmentalists to gain credibility with a skeptical public. if they accepted the stringent definitions of the environmentalists. Considerable dialogue was needed to begin to map the boundaries and structures of this new problem and to determine the legitimate stakeholders. It is exceedingly difficult to create common "institutional thought structures" on the basis of divergent values. If consumers felt they could protect the environment by "buying green. Despite the pressure for business and environmentalists to cooperate.such as Pollution Probe . Environmentalists also feared that their nonprofit or charitable status . the emerging domain was plagued with residues of previous . and governments a vital aspect of problem resolution. thereby reducing confidence in the process of collaboration. More moderate groups. Moreover. continuing structural constraints acted against collaboration. As a result.are quite dissimilar to the values of the average privatesector organization. love of nature. The values of most environmental groups ." their support for watchdog environmental organizations might decline. which focus on profit maximization and growth. The concept of sustainable development reframed the issue to make collaboration among businesses. but environmental groups being organized as democracies are difficult to control. the differences in the structure and values of businesses and environmental groups appeared to make collaboration unlikely. This structure inhibits collaboration. as one policy analyst we interviewed noted: This has been one of the problems with the environmental movement (in reaching collaborative accords with business): They have trouble bringing along their own members. agreements between environmentalists and business are often rejected by the environmental groups themselves." and lack a developed internal hierarchy and a central authority. environmental groups in Canada (as they are elsewhere) are loosely structured and "thinly institutionalized. In practice.argued that environmental groups should have a place in the corporate boardroom. and interaction patterns. In addition. the concept of sustainable development framed a problem domain that was highly underorganized.which allows groups to accept tax-exempt donations and is crucial to the support base of most environmental organizations . they would not trust most green products and would continue to support the environmentalists' uncompromising stance. The government and business can be fairly sure that they have the support of their constituencies. many groups on both sides had only a hazy notion of their responsibilities in the domain or of the domain's parameters. Business responded positively to this argument.

N. In this context. Nichol received a master's degree in business administration from Harvard University and was hired at Loblaws in 1972. In sum.R. when the company was in a financial crisis. Canada's largest food retailer.E. surveys by Loblaws indicated that more than 65% of its customers would change supermarkets to buy environmentally safe products. Pollution Probe disagrees with Greenpeace. Inc. 1989. This innovation was highly successful. Yet structural constraints . as well as the successful introduction of green products in a number of European and British retail operations.N. products launched in June 1989. the G.N.N.R. On the basis of these findings. Loblaws launched a line of green products in Canada.E. Pollution Probe emerged as a voluntary bridge in a discrete attempt to narrow the gap between business and environmentalism on a specific point of interest. he helped improve the company's fortunes by introducing "No Name" generic products. which made collaboration a concern for all stakeholders. Nichol introduced a second line of products. Loblaws.R. launched a new product line.N. The opportunity arose when Loblaws sought to launch a new line of green products.E.R.N. An issue domain had been defined. and Loblaws remains the leader in generic brands in Canada. Greenpeace calls a press conference on July 5. Launching the Loblaws G. and that 90% would buy such products if they were introduced by Loblaws (Goldberg. president of Loblaws International Merchants and a man widely recognized for his marketing flair. Canada in 1989 was ripe for the emergence of bridging organizations to span the gap between environmentalists and business. In 1984. products. By the early 1980s.E.E. Line In June 1989.R.E.E.E.R. In March 1978.E. He became president of Loblaws's Ontario division at the age of 35." to appeal . products.E. • Colin Isaacs resigns position as director of Pollution Probe. line (see Table 2). Pollution Probe agrees to endorse seven G. and value disparities-made direct collaboration difficult." Surveys of the Canadian public found that pollution was perceived as the most pressing national issue at that time.E. problems.E. citing internal organizational conflicts.. The creative genius behind the G.E. 1989). line of "environment-friendly" products. A native of Ontario. G.E. labeled "President's Choice. legal and normative guidelines. line is generally acknowledged to be Dave Nichol. Loblaws approaches environmental groups to seek endorsement of selected G.R. fertilizer. although it was underdeveloped. National roundtables had been mandated to help act as bridges.such as competition for resources. In addition. the generic products branding strategy had reached maturity and Loblaws was looking for a new retail brand to attract and hold consumers.Westley. and attacks the endorsement of G. Vredenburg TA8LE2 / STRATEGIC BRIDGING 73 History of the Case • • • • • Loblaws decides to develop a G. such as conflicts in definitions of environmentalism that predated the notion of sustainable development. which included 100 items designed to meet a perceived consumer demand for products that were both "environmentally friendly" and "body friendly.E.E.N.N.R.

but we have to fight the normal consumption habits. diffuse attacks from other environmental groups. He emphasized secrecy and haste in the negotiations.E. I mean.the needs for marketability and environmental safetydetermined that Nichol would seek the endorsement of Pollution Probe.74 JOURNAL OF APPLIED BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE March 1991 to the upscale end of the market.R. they were an immediate success. which was estimated to eventually amount to $75. According to both Colin Isaacs of Pollution Probe and a spokesperson for Friends of the Earth. and it showed every sign of being a success. . A Loblaws product developer explained: Some green products will never approach the same performance standards [as "nongreen" products]." Like their No Name predecessors.R. the overriding value was marketability.R. Pollution Probe and Friends of the Earth. and automatic dishwashing detergent-and asked for endorsements. an edict is passed and I have to improve the product. we are here to sell products and if the numbers aren't good we can't do that. The G.R. to seek their approval of the G. its actions were primarily self-serving.E. Throughout the negotiations. with a customer trial rate of 27%.N. In this sense. as part of its labeling/branding strategy. although the product developers sought to balance the demands of creating environmentally friendly products with those of marketability. nonphosphate detergent. Nichol believed that a successful launch of such products depended on . I certainly know what the issues are. Loblaws also agreed to donate to Pollution Probe $1 for each G. These products were developed with the goal of offering "high quality at a realistic price.. with little reference to and perhaps reflecting a restricted awareness of the overarching problems of sustainable development.N.line. Loblaws agreed to pay Pollution Probe a 1% royalty fee for its endorsements. this collaboration was restricted. most notably Pollution Probe. When that happens.or at least could be facilitated bycollaboration with experts in the environmental movement. and educate Loblaws's product development staff about environmental issues.N. Only when Pollution Probe insisted on verifying the ingredients of the fertilizer did the two parties conduct any joint exploration. products were sold in the first 4 weeks. Loblaws was not interested in suggestions for potential products other than those it had already chosen. disposable diapers.E.N. if a product doesn't fly.E.E.E. will a significant number of consumers be willing to trade into it? We continue to try to improve the product. topsoil.000. The marketing strategy for the G.R. you don't have much room to maneuver. soon you have to reassess: Do you really have a product that the consumer wants? Either then you have to abandon the product or you have to find some way to reposition it . and the question is. and by 1987 the two lines accounted for 21 % of Loblaws's warehouse volume and 30% of its total grocery sales. From Loblaws's point of view. The company simply presented a list of seven products-fertilizer. I hear internal criticisms because a product isn't selling. In the end. Loblaws kept tight control of the product agenda.E. More than $5 million worth of G.E. Loblaws contacted two groups. The company wanted to develop environmentally friendly products and to collaborate as a means to a specific end: to be the first to market a line of green products and thereby tap a developing consumer market and enhance the company's competitive position.line was Loblaws's third marketing initiative. He thought it would heighten consumer confidence. line differed from that for its predecessors in one important respect: Loblaws sought the endorsement of several environmental groups.E.. recycled motor oil. sanitary napkins.N. These two constraints .E. Within the company as well.

(qtd.even though the shirts were not specifically endorsed by Pollution Probe. The G. in particular. held a press conference to demand that Pollution Probe retract its endorsement of the G. there wasn't anything at all.E.E. including dioxin. As Chant noted recently. produced independent laboratory results showing the presence of extractable organic halide in the fertilizer. there were no departments of the environment. very successful. the organization'S attitude toward business. Essentially.N. in general.R. it is helpful to examine the sequence of events involving Pollution Probe. organic fertilizer.R. there were no environmental studies in any institutions. products. first to implement policy and second to raise money. 1989. From the beginning. D2) Pollution Probe gradually moved from "finger pointing" to working with business to achieve sustainable change.E. and there was little institutional awareness of environmentalism.E. in McInnis. At that time. when Greenpeace. Greenpeace argued.000 .N. Isaacs resigned as head of Pollution Probe several days after Greenpeace's press conference.N. and the environmental movement.4 million budget.N. Michael Manolson. In addition. p.E.R. The fact that we have solicited and accepted corporate donations . Pollution Probe has sought access to the boardrooms of the nation. Although Loblaws did not withdraw its products and Pollution Probe did not withdraw its endorsement. was cooperative: For 20 years. to the politicians and the media.. this one from the Consumers Association of Canada. as well as toward other environmental groups. that things were in a very bad way. Pollution Probe director Colin Isaacs responded by stating that the fertilizer had been tested for dioxin and found to be within acceptable limits. Vredenburg / STRATEGIC BRIDGING 75 sweatshirt and T-shirt sold . executive director of Greenpeace. dramatizing.E. Looking back 20 or 30 years . advertising verged on being misleading. only a handful of environmental groups existed in Canada. one of Canada's best-known environmental groups. corporate contributions accounted for 7% of its $1. The news media debated considerably the wisdom of joint ventures between environmental groups and business and speculated on a rift in the previously harmonious environmental movement. What we are seeing now is very much the product of the work those groups did.E.Westley. which would mean that under no circumstances could the fertilizer be considered environmentally friendly.. with no more than the usual media fanfare. 1989. bringing to the public's attention. Clearly that's been very. products were launched in June 1989. To understand these incidents more fully. which charged that the G. indicated the presence of toxins. Pollution Probe: The Endorsement Context Pollution Probe was founded 21 years ago by Donald Chant and was initially associated with the University of Toronto.E. But national attention focused on the collaboration on July 5. Pollution Probe accepted donations from corporations. there were no environmental vice-presidents in big corporations. The launch took another blow from a second attack that followed soon after. but the incident cast a shadow over the launch of the G. the job of the environmental groups was stirring things up. This chemical.R. in 1988.estimated to amount to another $75.

Central to this new language was an emphasis on research and science. we're also activists . p." Pollution Probe had for some time been forging a language and an approach appropriate to a bridging role. including Isaacs and Ferretti. that this intermediary. set it apart from more radical environmental groups. said in an interview in April 1990. After a . by 1989 Pollution Probe had a staff of approximately 30 to manage the office and a large canvassing operation conducted by volunteers. forging a new link with business that would balance the traditional link with environmentalists was appropriate to the organization Pollution Probe had become. as an environmental group. either confrontational or asking for money. 1989. The endorsement issue moved Pollution Probe into a new relationship with other environmental groups. It was not just confrontational. Yet the relationship between Pollution Probe and other environmental groups had always been friendly. (Isaacs. They recognized... was prepared to cooperate and to be seen on the same side of things. and it had little hierarchy. For many members of Pollution Probe. A7) Members ofthe organization say that the appointment ofIsaacs in 1982 accelerated the process of Pollution Probe's movement into corporate boardrooms. Isaacs clearly expressed in an interview this objective and the role he saw for Pollution Probe: "Working together with companies is a very important part of the role of the environment group today. ya" to every move that industry makes. the current director of Pollution Probe. Our magazine was originally established on the assumption that it would raise money by accepting paid advertising and it has been doing this for more than a decade. because that's what our relationship with the corporate world has been. which was unheard of. well-researched. As Ferretti said in the same interview: For some people [in the environmental movement]. Some people interpret that [our recognition that business is making some good moves) as Pollution Probe becoming a Milquetoast organization saying "ya. the whole notion of professionalizing is being seen as kind of a corporate takeover of the organization. involving ongoing collaboration and the exchange of information and resources." willing to work with business. The product endorsements were a departure from our history of research-based activities. bridging role might be difficult for many environmental groups to understand or sympathize with. ya. Never a large organization. but at the same time that we are wearing suits and ties. Decisions in the organization were traditionally made by consensus. And I think the Loblaws thing was a message to the corporate world that Pollution Probe. The function of the organization runs smoothly in a corporate way. We had to do it because the organization has always been on that edge .. And some people have a hard time thinking we can do both.76 JOURNAL OF APPLIED BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE March 1991 seems to have taken people by surprise. Really. which was expected to establish Pollution Probe as a neutral organization providing solid documentation to business and other environmental groups alike. it was kind of our destiny. publicly available information on environmental issues and products.. Pollution Probe broke the sound barrier that way. which was to appeal to the private sector. The image of an organization based on "solid. As Janine Ferretti. or asking for money. even though it is published regularly in our annual report. if you think about it. The initiative came specifically out of a goal. It was also hard for some of the staff of Pollution Probe to do both. nonetheless.

. business. they were a zoo... Isaacs's first contact with Nichol came several months before the negotiations on the endorsements. Staff-board relations had always been less than cordial. labor. with Isaacs insisting (as he wrote in his July 1989 resignation letter) that these were "the public. for which I commend them. Isaacs said he feIt that. and as all the staff were getting to be 30 people it was impossible to run weekly meetings .. with the sudden growth. and others.. In addition. "Why are you attacking the products we sell?" And I went up there and went through all the literature we had and said. Nichol.. The following three teams were created: a coordination and communication committee. began to involve Isaacs in a series of informal discussions about the development and . Authority rested with all the staff. We were getting concerned about biodegradable plastics .. The reorganization was not entirely successful. during which Pollution Probe launched an innovative. door-to-door campaign and saw its budget grow from $350.. Many of the staff members viewed the reorganization as indicating their further exclusion and resented Isaacs's management style and the process he employed to reach his ends. The staff were functioning as a group of independent entrepreneurs. government. theoretically to facilitate the decision-making progress." After the initial meeting.000 to $1 million in revenues in 3 years. our analysis showed that they just didn't work . educators. who suggested a reorganization." including cooperation with business. my perception was that they were impressed by the presentation. they don't work" . which was essentially an administrative unit. In a December 1989 interview. that they had thought we were some radical environmental group just yelling and screaming for the sake of it. to pick up the phone and say. the organizational structure was out of control: The executive director had no authority. and an environment and development committee. Dissension also arose over the organization's stakeholders. and when we came in and presented scientific evidence and a reasoned argument they said. The only formal decision-making body was the weekly staff meetings. "Sorry. and they were selling them.. The three committee heads and the executive director formed the executive committee. the media.. who had recently returned from a trip to England.. an ideological split existed in the organization between what Isaacs described as "a radical philosophy of social change and a more 'mainstream' philosophy which advocated looking for environmental improvement in existing structures. guys. Isaacs brought in a consultant in organization design from York University. we were paying their salaries. So we were yelling about biodegradable plastics. "By God.Westley. but they were doing what they wanted. with Isaacs acting as the only conduit between the staff and the board. that was the first point of contact . but that structure couldn't hold anyone accountable. A period of rapid growth occurred. Vredenburg I STRATEGIC BRIDGING 77 major downturn in the organization's fortunes in 1985 and a subsequent series of layoffs." and contending that others in the organization thought the only stakeholders were "the staff and other environmental groups. an environment and society committee. the staff unionized." This is the organizational context in which the Loblaws endorsements were introduced and must be interpreted. these guys know what they're talking about. and they had the good sense.

but they were sworn to secrecy.. Although Isaacs felt secure about his motives for pursuing the endorsements and in the financial arrangements.. Someone had leaked the news to the press and. Pollution Probe staff members were less certain.but we never really got around to it.N. ran the meeting. products. "Well then. I took it to the management committee. quite frankly. Isaacs insisted that money was never his major concern: I talked with them and I talked with some of the staff about the money part of it . Originally.78 JOURNAL OF APPLIED BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE March 1991 selection of G. because from our viewpoint it was extra. There was no sense that there was a problem in taking 10 cents a bag for fertilizer we had helped develop .. because for us it was really gravy. I didn't worry too much about the money..000. not part of our financial plan. were secondary. Isaacs brought a mock-up of the products.. Loblaws agreed to pay Pollution Probe 10 cents for each bag of fertilizer sold. to launch the whole concept of green products and the idea that consumers could get involved in solving environmental problems by shifting their purchasing decisions. Isaacs saw the collaboration with Loblaws as a great opportunity for consciousness raising as well as fundraising: My objective was to work more closely with business and to send a very clear message that Pollution Probe was willing to sit down with business and find environmental opportunities. There were a whole series of resignations.. According to one staff member. Geoff Love. From Isaacs's perspective. The first idea centered on the development of nontoxic fertilizer and topsoil.000. a special board meeting was called for the end of June. I wasn't worried.. yet Loblaws was pressing for secrecy. Isaacs was afraid that if it went to staff. but I did not feel they were being ungenerous . and that was finally the written commitment from Loblaws. as well as to a critical letter written by the administrative coordinator. they were waiting in the halls outside throughout the meeting. once we got into the next round of products. there was unanimous disagreement with Colin's process.R. a figure that had been negotiated by Isaacs and approved by the Pollution Probe board to help meet the organization'S continuing need for funds. In response to these resignations.. After that meeting.. although reporters were not permitted to sit in on the meeting. and support was split on the endorsement issue. according to Isaacs. As noted earlier. Financial considerations. an atmosphere of mistrust had predated the negotiations with Loblaws.. and it seemed to me a perfectly reasonable way of doing things. things were moving so fast I kept saying. Isaacs involved several staff members and many outside experts in an exhaustive search fornatural sources of the nitrogen needed for a good fertilizer. it would leak out. when are we going to negotiate the money?" . he was in effect shut out of the process: . Pollution Probe devoted considerable resources to this product. When we finally had a board meeting to inform the staff. a tremendous amount of tension grew . They kept talking about $150. It was not part of our budget. but my sense was that we were going to be closer to $75.. which already had Pollution Probe written on them. the product endorsement issue was kept secret for a long time and then "sprung" on the unsuspecting staff: Colin Isaacs took the endorsement idea to the management committee. chairman of the Pollution Probe board. I would take whatever I could.E.E. and nobody objected .

and they didn't ask me to be on that committee. a dilemma developed over how to preserve the radical and activist orientation of the core elite while . it also created problems. it proudly accepts the label of environmental watchdog and considers itself an activist organization." During this week. but as the days passed it became evident that the critique was more general. Greenpeace: The Context of Critique At the initial press conference Greenpeace questioned whether the fertilizer endorsed by Pollution Probe was in fact environmentally friendly. highly committed band of activist "elites" ready to risk personal danger for the causes it supports. In the 18 months preceding December 1989. Michael Manolson stated Greenpeace's objection as one of principle: "The environmental crisis is not a challenge for marketers to come up with clever ways to sell products... I called Geoff Love and he told me that they were just trying to cool things down. Greenpeace held its press conference. The press gave more positive coverage to environmental issues. Until the 1980s. Although this newfound popularity swelled the Greenpeace coffers and volunteer labor pool. brought the group into being in the late 1960s. Greenpeace has been associated with such causes as opposition to French nuclear testing in the South Pacific and to hunting seals. at the meeting the board did not allow me to make a presentation. Greenpeace differs from Pollution Probe in several important respects. In the 1980s. First. Isaacs phoned the chairman the next weekend and offered to resign.000 Canadians contributed to Greenpeace. Essential to the Greenpeace movement has been a relatively unstructured.. and Greenpeace saw its contributions and membership soar. According to Manolson. 79 Feeling that he no longer had the support of the board. giving the attack a spurious credibility. The first such cause it confronted. Vredenburg / STRATEGIC BRIDGING Before the special board meeting. so I sent the letter by courier on Thursday . Greenpeace has always been well covered by the news media. He was asked to wait until the board met. increasing environmental awareness was fueled by environmental disasters such as the chemical spill at Bhopal and the nuclear plant accident at Chernobyl. and with the movement to protect whales. but of course they were going to continue with the program .. nuclear testing at Amchitka. Isaacs's resignation." As an organization.. it was generally viewed as a radical fringe movement. "I didn't get any support . it has never accepted corporate donations of any kind and relies entirely on donations. They decided to set up a committee consisting of board and staff members to review the product endorsement policy. membership dues. he announced to the management committee that he was submitting his letter of resignation. Isaacs's resignation and Greenpeace's attack became linked in the press. On Tuesday of the following week. more than 100.Westley. on Friday I got a call from Love saying he was faxing me a letter accepting my resignation. Second.. thus coincided inadvertently with Greenpeace's attack on the product endorsements. however. however. which was a response to internal organizational conflicts and pressures. Because of the dramatic nature of many of its demonstrations. Since then. the first week of July. and grants from Greenpeace International.

too. Line is a case in point. it heralded an exceptional rift in the otherwise highly cooperative environmental movement in Canada. by implication. it is the consumer who should be doing it. Yet the endorsement issue challenged this prevailing attitude of cooperation. to maintain the spirit of cooperation that had characterized the Canadian environmental movement. There are about 100 products in the line. In an interview in December 1989. Loblaws's G..80 JOURNAL OF APPLIED BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE March 1991 incorporating the increasing number of volunteers who wanted some sense of inclusion in exchange for their labor. should show that "something can be done. and performance appraisal common to privatesector organizations began to crop up. In addition. If Loblaws president Dave Nichol really wants to be an environmentalist.. We have been an innovative organization in the past.. By associating with Loblaws. but held back from publicly criticizing Pollution Probe.E.the dangerous ones have to go.. Isaacs argued that he had tried unsuccessfully to contact Manolson before the Greenpeace press conference "to talk things over" and that the Greenpeace staff "simply wouldn't talk to us. In the end. The Pollution Probe name would thus be associated with tangible products that would be promoted by the Loblaws marketing machinery. it was grounded in a specific organizational and industry context. then he. . and they are being presented as environmentally and body friendly. Greenpeacers were wary of product endorsements when they first heard about them..E. Loblaws's pitch to the consumer is that "something can be done" and." Something like adding his own powerful voice to the call for a total ban on chlorinebleached paper products like initiating an audit of Loblaws's own packaging. you will buy these products . Manolson." Manolson noted that only after considerable soul-searching did Greenpeace decide to release its findings to the press. Manolson (1989. but we intend to remain innovative and radical. Manolson was in keeping with Greenpeace's long-standing policy of maintaining a watchdog role in relation to industry and acting as the standard-bearer for the environmental movement in Canada as a whole. including . the growing Greenpeace staff -needed to manage the organization's increased activities . authority.. cleaning. and waste-handling methods Their actions should not stop at just adding environmentally friendly products. In taking this stance. The implication in the marketing approach is clearly that.N. even with growing public support. Yet viewing Manolsori's article only as a restatement of organizational philosophy would be simplistic.. Pollution Probe gained instant access to a huge group of consumers.provided management challenges. if you care about the environment. Issues of remuneration. In an "op-ed" piece in Toronto's Globe and Mail. the heart of the matter was the definition of a green product.R. Indeed. and to pull the center farther left as well. thought Greenpeace needed to find organizational forms that could meet the demands of growth without compromising the mission and culture of the organization. As a strategic move. a committed Greenpeace activist who had been with the organization about 20 years and holds an MBA degree. Manolson said: Our role is still to occupy the far left of the environmental movement . A 7) argued cogently against product endorsement and raised serious questions about Nichol's sincerity: Big business is exploiting environmental concern to make money. p.

Indeed.and then to set the agenda for how consumers should think about green products. and untainted by commercialism. including the length of time an endorsement would be in effect. This level of access presented a potential threat to Greenpeace's support base by targeting a mass of consumers with a message in direct contradiction to Greenpeace's activist stance. it supported the movement's efforts to market environmentalism to the public. Pollution Probe put together a list of criteria for further product endorsements. which had an estimated circulation of more than 10 million. which encouraged consumers to feel "you can make a difference. implicitly rejecting the central bridging position their organization had adopted. Greenpeace managed to turn the endorsement issue into an opportunity to gain media attention and to further differentiate its own "product": activism. Vredenburg / STRATEGIC BRIDGING 81 Dave Nichol's "Insider's Report. it reassured the Greenpeace membership of the commitment of its leaders to its mission and its distinctive activist culture. It also gave symbolic justification to sentiments within Pollution Probe that might otherwise have been contained at the level of internal political maneuvering. fearless. perhaps more than any other time in our history. Pollution Probe has a chance to make incredible gains for the environment. What's to stop any retailer from labelling any product environmentally friendly? ..Westley. Greenpeace says that there are some basic questions that need answers.the potential toxicity of a product labeled green ." implied that they could become activists simply by buying a product. many Pollution Probe staff members took the controversy as an opportunity to signal their identification with the environmental movement as a whole. As a Pollution Probe staff member said in an interview: The environmental movement in Canada is riding a wave of incredible public support and interest." an innovative quarterly publication about new Loblaws products. 1989. But where is the bottom line? Is saving our world almost as important as making money? Is it just as important? Or is it even more important? We'll know in just a few short years. in organizational terms. A 7) The position adopted by Greenpeace reaffirmed the image of the environmental movement as uncompromising. This public stance was positive in two ways: In marketing terms. Loblaws's campaign. If consumers bought the message as well as the product. use of Pollution Probe's name in other . Aftermath After Isaacs resigned. but we must. (Manolson. Greenpeace's press conference enabled it to be on familiar ground. Never before have we had the kind of opportunities and credibility we have at this point in history. Who is checking up on things? What is a green product? Loblaws has not identified or published what criteria is used in determining which products made it into the green line. Greenpeace effectively used the news media first to stage a drama . committed.. mobilizing familiar resources. conditions for withdrawal of endorsements. Honest green consumerism is a positive response to the environmental crisis. Damaging our credibility can do more than just damaging the organization: It can damage the whole movement. remain open and consistent in our position as environmental advocates. would they lose interest in being vicarious activists through membership in Greenpeace? Despite this potential threat. p.

yet both organizations used Pollution Probe's bridging role to gain strategic advantages for themselves. (Corcoran. 1989. money can hold the partnership together. objectives. B2) DISCUSSION The Dynamics of Voluntary Bridging The dynamics of the interactions in the case are summarized in Figure 2. 1989). It was felt that the organization needed to guard itself against the dangers of co-optation inherent in cooperative ventures. Loblaws's dual (and somewhat incompatible) needs for environmental safety and marketability ensured that Nichol would seek the endorsement (i. arrangements for reporting and monitoring. The Greenpeace criticism also had the internal function of reasserting Greenpeace's elite. At the other extreme. the motives of all three sets of actors for collaborating and failing to collaborate were complex. and stemmed from the internal dynamics of their organizations as much as from rational attempts at problem solving... conservative commentators from the business world took the case as an example of why the apparent advantage of endorsements was not worth the cost: One fundamental issue is whether any company should get into bed with advocacy groups whose methods. and understanding their motives is vital. Research on colIaboration has greatly increased our understanding of the processes that create institutional structures among organizations (Gray.82 JOURNAL OF APPLIED BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE March 1991 marketing efforts. they are crucial to the ultimate resolution of the an opportunity to create a bridge. The only true common element is money. The concept of bridging as a form of collaboration. the . Neither Greenpcace nor Loblaws consciously articulated a desire for Pollution Probe to play a bridging role. Although islands may never enter fully into collaborative processes. responded . Sometimes. beliefs. limitations on liability.. Part of Pollution Probe's membership dedicated to decision making by consensus protested (Dynamic B). collaboration) of environmental groups under conditions of speed and secrecy (Dynamic A). The synergy is largely superficial.also with speed and secrecy . however. In this sense. Manolson's criticism of the bridging effort fueled and supported the protesting faction's complaint and gave it a public platform that may have been the decisive factor causing the Pollution Probe board to accept Isaacs's resignation.e. which both the companies and the advocacy groups believe they will get more of if they cooperate.the association is doomed to be troubled and anxious. In sum. ideologies and philosophies may be inhospitable to business in general. Thus the Greenpeace action reassured its core members and solidified its mass support base. But when the cooperation involves linking two different segments of society-profitmaking and advocacy groups . but whose activities may otherwise improve a company's sales and profits .. operating out of a sense of faith in the authority of his position in a reorganized Pollution Probe. and promotional guidelines. focuses on the internal dynamics of the bridging organization and its constituent islands. activist role. which enabled it to combat the possible threat of the Loblaws-Pollution Probe colIaboration to Greenpeace's mass support (Dynamic C). Isaacs. p.

both Greenpeace (with its radical ecological perspective) and Loblaws (with its traditional marketing perspective) were operating in a competitive framework.R. for both island organizations refused to cooperate directly with one another. Consensus II Collaborative Role. who was willing to act as a bridge. Professionalization Greenpeace (Dynamic C) FIGURE 2: Dynamics of Interaction case of the Loblaws G.E. and both used the bridging activity of Pollution Probe to consolidate their own . Internal Hierarchy Manolson attacks fertilizer at press conference Elite Identification Mass Appeal.E. Vredenburg / STRATEGIC BRIDGING 83 Environmental Safety IrNichol seeks endorsement under conditions of security and speed Marketability Loblaws (Dynamic A) Members Protest Isaacs's Actions ---+11 Isaacs makes decision to endorse Pollution Probe (Dynamic B) Watchdog Role. yet each benefited from the supplier.Westley. Essentially.N. products is closer to the egoistic than to the altruistic model of bridging.

e. For bridging to succeed. Touval & Zaltman. this case suggests that bridging as a distinctive form of collaboration is likely to occur when the willingness of domain stakeholders to collaborate directly. or in dispute. (b) norms and values governing ongoing interaction can be established. They may enter into a subdomain negotiation (e.. In this case. How can we explain these dynamics in the context of collaborative theory in general. business and environmentalists]. responsibility. a new link was briefly forged by Pollution Probe with business... bridging can occur in situations in which stakeholders are relatively unaware that they have a role in a particular problem domain.. 1986). green products are a marketing subdomain of the larger sustainable development problem domain) without recognizing the larger context seen by the bridging organization. the role of collaboration in organizing the domain cannot be underestimated. [with] the degree of awareness . but in so doing an old link with other environmentalists was ruptured. They were essentially unwilling to negotiate on these perspectives. and (c) authority.. leaving Pollution Probe to absorb the costs of attempting to integrate all three viewpoints. We argue that.84 JOURNAL OF APPLIED BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE March 1991 positions. Second. Thus a second differentiating variable between bridging and other forms of collaboration is the degree of organization of the problem domain. stakeholders may feel they can solve a problem unilaterally [Gray & Hay. without a bridge. Such restraints may be present in all collaborations to some degree. at least two links must be maintained. Four factors may lead to an unwillingness or inability to collaborate directly: • resource or authority restraints (i. but bridging differs from other forms of collaboration in that when these restraints are a factor. of the four forms of collaboration mentioned earlier. frequently low or nonexistent" (Gray & Hay... Problem domains are underorganized when "boundaries of the domain are unclear. as Ferretti said in an interview: We had these two absolutely opposite critiques and that's where Pollution Probe lost . stakeholders are not even willing to come to the table. The result was that Pollution Probe essentially was pulled apart. Through collaborative negotiations. 1985) • traditional positions of opposition (as was the case of business and environmental stakeholders who viewed each other as enemies) • legal barriers.g. . the fact is we lost support from both camps [i.e. (a) stakeholders can be identified and develop a common language. and of bridging specifically? First. bridging is at the low end of the continuum: As a collaborative activity it has a covert. incremental quality compared with the overt and integrated efforts at creating a negotiated order represented by task forces and roundtables. In such domains. is low. 1986]) • ideological or cultural constraints that come into play when core values are at stake and compromise is not considered an acceptable option (as was the case with Greenpeace. shifting. and resources can be allocated.

Greenpeace continued to question the legitimacy and capacity of any business to be green.such as mediation or bridging . and even governments.bridging may be a valuable alternative until further organization of the domain occurs. Loblaws clearly saw the domain as including only itself and consumers.' When willingness to collaborate is low because of power imbalances or deadlock (Gray & Hay. Vredenburg / STRATEGIC BRIDGING 85 High x x Degree of Motivation to Collaborate MUltiparty Roundtables Joint Ventures x Strategic Bridging Low Degree of Organization of Problem Domain x Mediation High FIGURE 3: Collaborative Form as a Function of Motivation to Collaborate and of Organization of Problem Domain Figure 3 plots bridging and a number of other collaborative mechanisms in terms of these two critical dimensions: the degree of domain organization and the degree of willingness to collaborate. Only Pollution Probe defined the domain widely enough to include businesses. But Pollution Probe had a poor understanding of other aspects of domain organization. such as the language required to articulate the problem. 1986. Touval & Zaltman. the types of interorganizational norms needed to govern emerging interactions. and the balance of power that needed to be achieved. an individual environmental group providing product endorsements was considered a peripheral player.Westley. 1985). nonspecific. Pollution Probe also overestimated its own legitimacy as a bridge builder. When the domain is also underorganized. environmental groups. The sustainable development domain is more likely to occur than multiparty roundtables or joint ventures. conflict is diffuse. for example. In underorganized problem domains .in which core value differences and presenting structures such as the articulation of old problem domains are likely to impede communal collaborative negotiations . the legitimate stakeholders were never defined. It was apparent that even the subdomain of green products was poorly understood by stakeholders. Bridging is more suitable than mediation in the early stages of domain organization (even before disputes are organized). . and underorganized as well. third-party intervention .

. a lack of legitimacy heightens the need for the bridging organization to manage collaborative negotiations with great skill and reduces the likelihood of a negotiated order. bridging may occur without the establishment of the clear legitimacy of the bridging organization within the problem domain. According to one environmentalist from a group with headquarters in England. Whether the mediator is capable is less certain. at least temporarily. the lack of recognition may aid bridging organizations by providing a "corridor of indifferences" (Wrapp. Pollution Probe was largely a failure. in addition to Pollution Probe. however. Its links with Loblaws and other private-sector organizations were weakened. the history of collaboration between environmentalists and grocery chains in that country was similar to the collaboration between Loblaws and Pollution Probe. The need for mediators. which is the optimal result of the collaborative task force. Whether or not they will be able to further organize the domain remains to be seen. 1986). In the final analysis. success in bridging situations perhaps should be judged less by the consensus achieved regarding a negotiated order and the commitment to implement decisions than by the following: • the endurance of the organizing links formed • the success in advancing articulation of the problem domain in the form of shared values. an individual stakeholder may enter into collaborative negotiations with the bridging organization without ever acknowledging the legitimacy of the bridging organization as a link between it and another stakeholder. discontinuous collaborations. 1976) that allows the bridging organization an opportunity to maneuver that would not be available to planned collaborations in public arenas (Hiltgartner & Bosk. with its incremental.86 JOURNAL OF APPLIED BEHAVlORAL SCIENCE March 1991 In Figure 3. Despite this potential advantage. and at times this depends on the persuasive power of the mediator. as a form of collaboration. that of building enduring links. usually accepted only at the point of stalemate. In some cases.' This situation was true in the case of Pollution Probe. norms for interaction. while its links with other environmental movements were disturbed. is also clear. In bridging. see Gray & Hay. and mapping of the boundaries of the problem • the ability of the bridging organization to secure internal commitment to the bridging activities • the ability of the bridging organization to balance its own self-interest with domain concerns. once stakeholders have entered into collaborative negotiations. some progress was made through the public debates generated about green products. For a joint venture to occur. establishing legitimacy is an important first step. however. 1988). Several environmental groups. In the long run. On the second count. developed criteria for future endorsements. Therefore. both parties must clearly acknowledge the capacity and the right of each other as stakeholders in a well-articulated problem domain (for a discussion of legitimacy in interorganizational collaboration. their legitimacy is further consolidated. terminology. the legitimacy of the stakeholders (including third parties) increases toward the upper right-hand corner of the figure. The definition of a green product became more refined as these debates continued. In multiparty collaborations. Regarding the first count.

was an organization that existed to tell the truth about environmental matters." Hence a vigorous force for linking business to environmentalists in the interests of sustainable development seemed. Consider then my disappointment to find Pollution Probe (in fact as I understand it. pandering to business." stretching the boundaries. I am quite frankly shocked that Probe would stoop to pushing bandaid solutions to salve the conscience of consumers. with the probusiness members joining industry and the remainder retreating to the more acceptable (in the view of the ecological movement) stance of debating "life-style issues..and by extension Pollution Probe . the third count.appear to be self-serving. In this respect. at least for the near future. The reality that Pollution Probe benefited from its bridging role. further confused the issue. they ultimately viewed the organization's mission as committed to problem solution in that domain and as inherently transformational. not compromising." CONCLUSION Implications for Future Research This article delineates a special form of collaboration . and (c) exploring qualitatively and quantitatively the conditions that lead to successful and unsuccessful bridging attempts. The theoretical notions developed for this article were derived inductively from a single in-depth case study. As one long-term supporter and advocate of confrontation explained in a letter to the Pollution Probe board in June 1989: Pollution Probe. Other examples of strategic bridging in similar problem domains should be identified and studied . to have been lost.using a descriptive case study to explore this form's parameters.Westley. . In it we seek to distinguish this collaborative form from other forms such as multiparty roundtables.. an appropriate role for the organization which was once "Canada's Leading Environmental Group. and accepting of the status quo. It weakened the faction that saw collaboration as transformative and strengthened the faction that saw confrontation as the only road to change. pushing for social change. Vredenburg / STRATEGIC BRIDGING 87 several groups that had advocated a probusiness stance had split. Perhaps the greatest weakness of the Pollution Probe bridging effort involved its internal dynamics. the weakest points were the degree of commitment that Isaacs was able to secure and the balance of self-interest and domain focus that the organization was able to achieve. supplemented by quantitative hypothesis testing. if not financially then at least in terms of publicity. joint ventures. no doubt his line of environmentally friendly products will be successful. as I saw it. Although most organization members approved of product endorsements and thought they would enhance the organization's influence in a newly emerging problem domain. and mediation. in my submission. Dave Nichol is a brilliant marketer. That Isaacs accepted royalties on behalf of Pollution Probe and appeared on commercial advertising made him . not the organization but the Executive Director) endorsing disposable diapers.strategic bridging . Pollution Probe was about "probing. (b) extending the present study by examining collaborative forms in the problem domains defined by the axes of the graph in Figure 3. Pushing such products is not. Future studies in this area should follow three paths of inquiry: (a) replicating and corroborating the findings of the case research reported here. That is his job. to rock the boat and scream and holler when something needed changing.

Support for the theory would come from an empirical cluster map resembling Figure 3.88 JOURNAL OF APPLIED BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE March 1991 through in-depth studies. International market entry may be another problem domain that will prove to be fertile research ground. Is the strategic bridging form also relevant when the key stakeholders are not ideologically dissimilar and. as is sustainable development. as defined in this article. An important research question to be addressed is whether strategic bridging occurs only in cases in which the degree of organization of problem domain is low and the degree of motivation to collaborate is low. this area may provide further examples of efforts at strategic bridging. is relevant only when motivation to collaborate is low because the positions of the key stakeholders are at the extremes of structural and ideological dissimilarity. presumably are more motivated to collaborate? A brief report in the Economist about a lighting equipment manufacturer in Georgia that set up an electronic information network linking architects. In the Georgia case. what are the mediating conditions? Research can clarify this by examining the underlying dimensions. and manufacturers suggests that strategic bridging may be adopted by a business to link several competitors at various levels in a distribution network. The second area of proposed inquiry is an extension of our understanding of the problem domains in which strategic bridging occurs. The first step for such study would be to develop operational survey measures of the underlying dimensions of the key constructs.not ideology -led to a low degree of motivation to collaborate directly." Factor analyzing of these measures could produce the two factors of constructs shown in Figure 3 and serve as construct validation. Another issue for research is whether strategic bridging. for strategic bridging to take place? How organized must the problem domain be before strategic bridging is supplanted with another form of collaboration? The example of the electrical equipment manufacturer suggests that the problem domain of "industrial distribution" may be sufficiently low in the degree of organization of problem domain. Case studies should be supplemented with extant research reports. as in the case of the radical environmentalists and conservative business organizations. If exceptions to this pattern occur. Must the problem domain be nebulous. as the field study reported here suggests. therefore. Replication and corroboration of the present field study will increase support for and possibly modify the theoretical framework. Perhaps strategic alliances described in the press are really closer in form to strategic bridges. The survey data . Quantitative testing of the theory will also further research in the second area of concern. A large sample of collaborations of various forms could then be measured on the variables "underlying degree of organization of problem domain" and "degree of motivation to collaborate. competitive structure . with collaboration cases clustered around cluster centroids positioned similarly to the large Xs. distributors. The underlying dimensions ofthe construct "degree of organization of the problem domain" must also be explored. Cluster analysis of the cases of collaboration using the measures developed will position the cases in the "motivation to collaborate/organization of problem domain" space. and reports in the business and general press should be examined for information about collaboration. Because the concept of sustainable development cited in the Brundtland Commission report calls for collaboration among stakeholders. contractors.

Further research will. Prospects for resolving hazardous waste siting disputes through negotiation. In the case presented in this article. REFERENCES Astley. the attempt at strategic bridging was not an unequivocal success. adhocracies. 3. At this time. (1984). may be better able to build internal commitment for a bridging strategy. 2. Mintzberg. We wish to note that the Xs indicate hypothesized centroids of c1usterings of mechanisms. 12. a business school dean who attempts a bridging strategy between academia and business may fail to obtain commitment from factions in the facuIty. .e. Similarly. we can only speculate as to how that failure might have been averted. G. S. it is hoped. We are grateful to the editors of this issue for bringing this point to our attention. Bingham. Toward an appreciation of collective strategy. Future qualitative studies should document cases of more successful bridging efforts.. Pollution Probe was thus unable to build commitment to the bridging strategy among its internal factions. The case we present suggests that in bridging situations. The final area mentioned for future research concerns the factors leading to successful and unsuccessful strategic bridging attempts. Natural Resource Lawyer. We speculate that many organizations that are flexible and innovative enough to attempt bridging strategies . (1984). 1979) . G. equal attention should be paid to the types of organizational structures that lead to effective commitment building in the strategic bridging organization. and public sector nongovernmental organizations that attempt bridging strategies have similar structural impediments. provide more concrete answers to the question of why bridging succeeds in some cases and not in others. 9. Multiparty task forces such as the NCPA described by Gray and Hay (1986) must overcome a lower degree of willingness to collaborate than did the Earthquake Committee described by Brown (1989). Most studies examining collaboration have focused on the collaborations themselves and the collaborative negotiations involved. D.. This technique enables the researcher to use the operational measures of the underlying dimensions of "motivation to collaborate" and "organization of problem domain" to predict the collaborative form adopted. We would classify the example Brown (1989) gives of bridging-the Committee of Earthquake Victims-as a multiparty task force rather than a bridge because this organization was made up of representatives of the island organizations it was seeking to connect.473-479. The strains inherent in the strategic bridging form of collaboration led to the ultimate failure of the attempt.Westley. NOTES 1.may be handicapped by the poor ability of their democratic decision-making processes to build internal commitment to a bridging strategy. such as the lighting equipment manufacturer or the chocolate-manufacturer supplier. & Miller.such as professional bureaucracies and ad hoc organizations (i. however. 526-535. A hierarchically organized company. Vredenburg / STRATEGICBRIDGING 89 described could also be analyzed using multiple discriminant analysis (MDA). Academy of Management Review.

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