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Business Strategy and the Environment

Bus. Strat. Env. 7, 179192 (1998)

BEYOND GREENING: NEW


DIALOGUE AND NEW
APPROACHES FOR
DEVELOPING SUSTAINABILITY

Annica Bragd1, Gavin Bridge2, Frank den Hond3 and P. D. Jose4


1
Gothenburg Research Institute, Gothenburg University, Sweden
2
Department of Geography, University of Oklahoma, USA
3
Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Vrije Universiteit,
The Netherlands
4
Centre for Energy, Environment and Technology, Administrative Staff College of India

The Sixth International Conference of the development. The organization of the


Greening of Industry Network, conference and significant conference
Developing Sustainability: New Dialogue, highlights, such as the incorporation of
New Approaches, was held in Santa CERES into the organization of the
Barbara, CA, USA, 1619 November conference, and the expansion of the
1997. This special edition of Business Network into Asia, are reviewed by the
Strategy and the Environment attempts to conference organizers in this special
capture the dialogue from the conference edition (Fatkin and Fischer, 1998). This
by presenting seven edited papers from essay discusses new dialogues and new
the conference, a review of the approaches to industrial transformation
conferences objectives and achievements emerging from Santa Barbara.  1998
from the perspective of the conference John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP
organizers, and this introductory essay. Environment.
Each of the seven papers takes a different
cut at theoretical, empirical and Accepted 16 June 1998
methodological questions around the
focus of the conference. Together they
represent the diversity and creativity of GREEN RESEARCH: WHAT PATH TO
approach that is central to the INDUSTRIAL TRANSFORMATION?
conferences objective of establishing new

I
ndustrial transformation is a significant
dialogue on processes of greening and research theme embraced by the Networks
progress towards sustainable research agenda (Schot et al., 1997) and in the
Correspondence to: Dr. Gavin Bridge, Department of Geography,
International Human Dimensions Programme on
University of Oklahoma, 100 East Boyd, Sec. 684, Norman, Global Change (Vellinga et al., 1997). It serves as
Oklahoma 730191007, USA. an umbrella concept offering an opportunity to
CCC 0964-4733/98/04017914 $17.50 bridge the gap between encompassing visions of
 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment. sustainability and more narrowly defined processes

BUSINESS STRATEGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT


A. BRAGD ET AL.

of greening, in the context of societies that are which they are based, so, too, theorists of green-
industrialized or undergoing industrialization. ing need to explain the value of their theoretical
Plenary discussions, presentations and dedicated constructs, particularly their limitations and
workshops at Santa Barbara each examined dis- potential for leveraging the eco-transformation
tinct facets of industrial transformation. Drawing process.
from papers, workshop reports and discussions
with other participants, this essay explores indus-
trial transformation in terms of three interrelated Focus or myopia?
themes: the nature of green research transfor- Plenary and break-out sessions at the conference
mation of civil society and sustainability in a showed participants within the Greening of
globalizing world. Industry Network to be both challenged and
There is ample evidence from research that frustrated by dialoguing on the concept of sus-
eco-transformation is occurring rapidly, but by no tainability which continues to elude convenient
means comprehensively or uniformly, across sec- operationalization. Calls to stop discussing sus-
toral, cultural and geographical divides. Up until tainability (Tuininga, 1997) and for more focused
now the research into organizational greening has research reflect this frustration yet need to be
expanded rapidly. Research methodologies have tempered with a recognition that focus can bind
been experimental and even eclectic as tradition- researchers to a single approach that in practice
ally discreet communities of scholars have each risks reducing sustainability to environmental per-
brought something to bear on the question of formance. There has undoubtedly been tangible
greening. Despite such rapid growth and exper- progress in improving environmental perform-
imentation, research on organizational greening ance within multinational corporations and signifi-
remains dominated by anecdotal evidence from cant lessons have been learned about how
successful cases, many of them drawn from best-practice techniques might be more widely
multinational firms. Associated with this limited diffused. Nevertheless, the ability of research on
empirical focus is a relatively weak connection greening to address the broader questions of
of research on greening with established pers- sustainability is highly circumscribed. It is, for
pectives such as strategic management, organiz- example, an academic conceit to imagine that
ational theory or development economics. Much research on cleaner-operating multinationals will
of the research presented at Santa Barbara, help further progress towards sustainable devel-
for example, relied on static, cross-sectional opment in developing countries against a back-
methodologies, while dynamic, longitudinal ground of accumulated debt, environmental
studies of greening were relatively few. Given degradation, poverty and unemployment.
these limitations, is the expansive, experimental As several participants noted during the work-
and diverse model of research and practice shop sessions, in rushing to answer the call for
sufficient to take us further? How we answer focus in our research on greening, we run the risk
that question collectively and individually is of collapsing greening and sustainability and in
likely to determine our role and effectiveness as the process losing the critical distance once pro-
researchers and practitioners as the field moves vided by the more far-reaching perspective of
towards maturity. sustainable development. There is value, then,
Discussions at Santa Barbara reflected a poten- in the inefficient and occasionally tiresome
tial divide between those seeking to harness debates which attempt to flush out the meanings
existing knowledge on the causes and conse- of sustainability: by calling our attention to
quences of greening to facilitate its wider and the many dimensions of sustainability which
more rapid diffusion, and those striving to better corporate greening cannot address, we are able
understand its epistemology, theoretical coher- to see with greater clarity areas of common
ence and the process of knowledge generation ground and to engage more productively at
around questions of greening. While theory and these points.
practice are often deployed less as an invitation to Very few conference papers sought to explore
dialogue and more as a rhetorical dichotomy, in the non-environmental components of sustainabil-
practice both approaches are needed to prevent ity. One notable example, Jones (1997), analysed
the premature closure of potential avenues for the evolution of a worker co-operative enterprise
change and to promote cross-fertilization of the in the United Kingdom (SUMA Wholefoods)
field. Just as empirical studies of organizational and assessed the capacity of this alternative form
greening should make explicit the assumptions on of economic organization to deliver on the

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180 BUSINESS STRATEGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT


BEYOND GREENING

objectives of sustainable development in its most technological innovations to improve efficiency in


holistic sense, i.e. endeavouring to fulfil what it transportation.
sees as its long-term environmental, social and
financial responsibilities (Jones, 1997). By address-
ing issues of equity, justice and environmental Focus on industrial sectors
responsibility in the work environment, the case-
study of SUMA highlights the possibility for new A special track of workshops at Santa Barbara
approaches to sustainability. At the same time, it was dedicated to the eco-transformation of indus-
answers the often repeated call for more research trial sectors. Based on the hypothesis that indus-
on the role of small and medium-scale enterprises trial transformation is sector specific, the objective
(SMEs). Smith (1997), for example, is represen- of these workshops was to provide opportunity
tative of recent work on SMEs in suggesting that for focused discussion on the specific challenges
the limited resources of SMEs may be an obstacle and opportunities for achieving sustainability
to the adoption of proactive strategies towards within each sector and to update researchers on
the environment. He concludes that without innovative approaches to corporate greening and
policy intervention the opportunities for imple- progress towards sustainability.
menting eco-design as part of product develop- A major challenge in the agricultural sector
ment might be more restricted within SMEs. Thus concerns the use of pesticides. Den Hond et al.
in attempting to redress the imbalance of research (1997) point to the opportunity for commercial
on large corporations, most researchers of SMEs users of agricultural products to act as transfor-
have unfortunately tended to simply compare mation agents in the move towards sustainable
SMEs with larger corporations and interpret them agriculture. Maier et al. (1997) provide several
as smaller, less well resourced and reactive forms examples of companies in the Swiss agri-
of the larger firm. In contrast, Jones paper, by not food, retail and gourmet industries that have
restricting itself to an assessment of the capacities switched to procuring organically grown prod-
for greening, demonstrates the considerable ucts. Chouinard and Brown (1997) report on
potential for research evaluating how SMEs might Patagonias learning experience in converting its
be better positioned to address social and cultural, cotton product line to organically grown cotton.
as well as the environmental, dimensions of Such initiatives taken to further sustainable devel-
sustainability. opment within agriculture, however, are often
The potential of an approach to sustainability small and occur without a noticeable change
which is more comprehensive than corporate in environmental impacts (Brown, 1997b). For
greening alone is illustrated, for example, in the example, despite innovative developments in
critical appraisal by den Hond et al. (1997) of organic farming, the use of pesticides continues to
competition within the global agri-food industry expand, especially in the developing countries. In
and Vaneks (1997) assessment of the environ- addition, green products are often more expen-
mental costs arising from global procurement sive, resulting in a segmented market for agricul-
strategies. Den Hond et al. (1997) illustrate how tural products. This raises significant questions for
standardization, driven by competitive strategies equity. Some consumers are willing and able
to reduce production costs, provides very limited to afford higher-priced pesticide-free products,
opportunities to promote conditions conducive to whereas others with more limited purchasing
sustainable agriculture, such as local diversity in power are restricted to buying lower-priced
food supply, regional self-reliance, reduced depen- products grown using pesticides.
dence on chemicals and greater community A strong transport and automobile theme ran
involvement. In focusing on the expansion of throughout the conference, reflecting the prob-
freight movements, Vanek (1997) attempts to lems associated with high and ever increasing
quantify the environmental impact resulting automobile use in the host state, California. Par-
from the increased economic interdependence ticipants had an opportunity to ride in two of
created by the globalization of business. He General Motors electric vehicles and a separate
suggests that an increase in freight movement workshop, dedicated to discussion of technology
over the last 25 years has led to increased energy futures, focused directly on future possibilities for
use, more acute air pollution and reduced water electric vehicles (Nieuwenhuis, 1997). Central to
quality as a result of run-off and has caused discussions in the automobile sector were issues
damage through noise and vibration, all of which of optimizing current modes of automobile pro-
may outstrip the beneficial impacts arising from duction in developed countries through increased

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BUSINESS STRATEGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT 181


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energy efficiency and decreased emissions. In overcoming inertia in the implementation and
this context the importance of supplier progress of new technologies. Other potential
manufacturing partnerships and life-cycle benefits of a sectoral approach could be in the area
considerations in product development were of benchmarking, either against current best prac-
emphasized (Hoogma, 1997). Elzen et al. (1997) tices for environmental management in the sector
take a more radical view by proposing alternative or against a shared vision on the direction in
transportation systems as a solution to current which the industry should be moving. On the
traffic and transport problems. Based on three other hand, some researchers studiously ignore a
strategies (strategic niche management, tech- sectoral approach, arguing that factors other than
nology forcing and network management) the sector specificity influence the integration of
authors develop a typology of policy approaches environmental concerns in company strategies
to achieve the desired quality of mobility in the (Mauser, 1997, Pickman, 1998). Further, an alter-
long run. native, non-sectoral approach based on finding
Regarding the chemical industry, participants solutions to common challenges or developing
agreed that much has been done to restructure the common methodologies may be more effective in
industry by accommodating environmental objec- facilitating dialogue. It is difficult at this stage to
tives and re-evaluating existing technologies. Yet, determine the impact of the sectoral approach on
they also noted that in many cases environmental advancing our knowledge about organizational
challenges were not solved but transferred back- greening, but it is nonetheless clear that in certain
ward in the supply chain. In pursuing strategies of industrial sectors (e.g. automobiles, chemicals)
vertical disintegration, for example, firms were there exists greater awareness and managerial
able to effectively outsource the most polluting expertise for dealing with the complexities of
operations (Theyel, 1997). environmental problems compared to others (e.g.
In the discussion of eco-transformation in the electronics). One could hypothesize, and future
electronics sector a distinction was made between research could evaluate, that this is not only
long- and short-term goal-setting. In the long run related to the differential impact of particular
the sector needs to redefine its core products sectors on the environment, but is also positively
and services. In the short run, however, it needs correlated with organizational maturity. Mature
to explore ways of greening its existing products organizations, i.e. those facing increasingly satu-
and services by anticipating where eco- rated markets and decreasing rates of growth in
transformation is likely to take the sector and sales, may have sufficient incentive to green their
identifying which actors are missing from the business and develop green products as a way of
eco-transformation process (Calkins and Irwin, restoring growth and/or reducing costs.
1997). While not represented as a distinct sector
at this conference, a number of papers addressed Values, dissent and dialogue
the environmental impacts of Information and
Communication Technologies (ICT). Wennberg Any discussion of greening, sustainability and the
and Arnfalk (1997), for example, point out that link between them necessarily invokes multiple
employee awareness is often low regarding the perspectives. Within the research community
environmental effects of ICT. They assert that alone, for example, the perspectives taken on
limited awareness among an organizations ICT greening and sustainability may be influenced by
staff diminishes the organizations opportunity to the unit of analysis (firm, community and societal
optimize the usage of ICT in an environmentally levels) and the geographical context of greening
sound way. Thus, Wennberg and Arnfalk advo- (e.g. developed versus developing worlds). The
cate education and training to increase awareness. diversity of perspectives can be a source of
While the intended focus of the conference dynamism and strength. Yet, as Ratinen (1997)
organizers on industrial sectors was highly valued argues, interaction between these various perspec-
by workshop participants, the jury is still out on tives can be obstructed by an inability to see the
how well the sectoral format of this series of relevance of each others points of view, and the
workshops improves understanding of industrial differences in the perceived order of importance
transformation. Several papers argue for a sectoral of various issues. Thus multiple perspectives can
approach (Yarime, 1997, on the chlorine and create a potential for conflict since the statement
caustic soda industry, Luiten, 1997, on pulp and of the problem as well as the formulation of a
paper) on the grounds that transfer of knowledge solution is often rooted in the immediate context
from one sector to another may be a way of of the stakeholders. Clarke (1997) and Roome

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182 BUSINESS STRATEGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT


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(1997) explain that different stakeholders have emphasis on values, ethics and distributive justice,
specific knowledge bases, beliefs and assumptions. does not necessarily call for evangelism. Rather,
Consequently, poor interaction between stake- the attempt should be to introduce to business
holders can lead to the formation of islands of students an appreciation of the environmental
knowledge with significant knowledge gaps values and environmental dilemmas facing busi-
between them. It is in this context that Gibson ness and society from multiple perspectives
et al. (1997) conclude that there is an immediate (Gibson et al., 1997).
need to direct education towards evolving a
shared language between different stakeholders. Dialogue through metrics
While data and knowledge gaps may be
addressed through empirical and theoretical The measurement, evaluation and reporting of
research, language gaps can be bridged through environmental performance has been identified as
education, information sharing and information a pre-requisite to managing industrial transfor-
dissemination. Roome (1997), for example, offers mation (de Bruijn et al., 1997). In discussing
networks of learning as one potential solution to research on voluntary reporting initiatives by
this balkanization of knowledge. Networks, which German companies, for example, Fichter (1997)
he describes as inclusive forums for learning and identifies how the transparency that reporting can
change, are assumed to promote mutual learning provide is valued not only by environmental
between different groups, overcoming knowledge pressure groups, but also by employees, custom-
and language gaps through the formation of ers and neighbouring communities. This leads
communities of practice and the creation of Fichter to suggest that active environmental
spaces for learning. Roomes rhetorical inno- reporting can provide a foundation for stake-
vations would seem to suggest that networks holder dialogue, offering numerous opportunities
necessarily lead to better greening. His assertions, for improving the relations with social actors,
and those of others using similar concepts, remain achieving a unique market position, motivating
to be empirically tested. Several empirical studies staff and improving environmental and quality
presented at Santa Barbara indirectly challenged management functions within the firm.
these ideas on networks of learning that are fast In deciding the content and form of reporting,
becoming canonical within the greening of indus- however, there can be considerable differences of
try literature. Boons (1998), for example, suggests opinion between businesses, communities and
that tight co-ordination of activities, asymmetrical other stakeholders about the most appropriate
dependencies and trust-based relations among the indicators of environmental performance. For
various actors in the milk-packaging industry in example, current corporate practices of environ-
the Netherlands have presented a barrier to mental reporting may help certain stakeholders to
innovation in milk packaging. decide whether to invest or not, or may provide
In workshops and paper presentations, many workers with environmental health and safety
participants urged the extension of dialogue on information, but they do not necessarily help local
organizational greening to include external stake- communities to evaluate the health of their eco-
holders of the firm. Chouinard and Brown (1997), system or implement local action plans for
for example, note that the challenge before firms environmental improvements (Fehsenfeld, 1997).
now is to change consumer perceptions and this The recognition of the significance of environ-
requires a long-term commitment to education if mental reporting in driving performance, together
the value of this change is to take hold in the with a realization that different stakeholders place
publics consciousness. This highlights the role different demands on the resolution, accessibility
of formal education systems, such as business and end-uses of reported data, is spurring initia-
schools, in promoting education for environ- tives to integrate corporate level data with
mental management. Brown (1997a) and Ulhi community indicators to develop a responsible
(1997) for example, ask whether educators are system of reporting on environmental quality. For
currently meeting the needs and requirements of example, the Coalition for Environmentally
environmental management and, more fundamen- Responsible Economies (CERES) has developed
tally, whether new green specialization is the a model of dialogue and stakeholder collaboration
most appropriate path to eco-transformation with the objective of influencing environmental
within the education sector. Workshops and management within large, multinational firms.
papers addressing this issue noted that the green- CERES has been a long-time partner of the
ing of business education, despite its implicit Network (its mission and principles were

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BUSINESS STRATEGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT 183


A. BRAGD ET AL.

discussed at earlier Network conferences, see for


example, Ashford and Meima, 1993) and at Santa
Barbara CERES offered its model of partnership
between institutional investors, environmental
groups and corporations as a subject for discus-
sion. Central to the CERES model is the Global
Reporting Initiative, an attempt to close the gap
between the different reporting standards cur-
rently available by introducing standardized
corporate environmental reporting in the form
of universal environmental performance metrics Figure 1: Eco-transformation at multiple levels.
(Fatkin et al., 1997). By creating a common plat-
form of reporting requirements and defining a set
of minimum reporting criteria, standardization Schwartz (1998) presents the process of green-
has the potential to simplify current modes of ing as a theatre play. There is increasing evidence
environmental reporting and improve its that the scene in which firms and other organiz-
credibility. ations play their act of greening, is changing. In
this metaphor, the scene comprises the organiz-
ational field (e.g. its task environment, market and
direct stakeholders) in which the organization
TRANSFORMATIONS IN CIVIL operates. If the scene changes, not only may
SOCIETY incumbent actors need to learn to play new roles,
but the play may also attract new actors playing
Industrial transformation occurs not only within new roles which, in turn, reinforce the setting of
industrial sectors but also in the socio-economic the new scene. Schwartzs metaphor may be
and political environments external to organiz- extended to include an audience which holds
ations. This raises questions of how such transfor- expectations of what the play should look like and
mations shape, and are being shaped by, the who may influence both the scene and the acts
behaviour of organizations. Civil interests, includ- being played through its appraisal of the perform-
ing green values, are increasingly being expressed ance. Conversely, a convincing scene or play may
independently of the state, possibly leading influence the audiences evaluation of what it sees.
towards an ecological modernization of society This section discusses several conference papers
(see, for example, Cohen, 1997). If it is occurring, from the perspective of the interrelationships
ecological modernization should become discern- between the audience, the scene and the actors
ible through changes in lifestyles and consump- (Figure 1).
tion patterns (Spaargaren, 1994) as well as cultural
changes (Hajer, 1996). It could also provide an Transformation 1. The impact of civil society
inspiration to, and a broader context for, the on the organizational field
increasing body of literature on industrial ecol-
ogy. As a result of ecological modernization, There is evidence that civil society is becoming
environmental norms and values are increasingly increasingly important for issues of greening. For
being institutionalized in organizational fields. At example, de Bruijn et al. (1997) point out that
the same time, organizations are themselves shap- governments are changing the contexts in which
ing and reinforcing the norms, values, cultures and firms operate by assuming a role of facilitator
structures that pervade their external environment rather than ruler. This allows for other organiz-
by modifying their behaviour and implementing ations, such as businesses, to assume a more
environmental management practices. Whereas pro-active role in the process of greening, which
some literature is available on the greening of is aided by adopting new policy instruments such
societies, and more on the greening of organiz- as negotiated agreements and through an
ational fields and organizations, there has been increased reliance on self-regulation. In turn, the
less attention to patterns and mechanisms of flexibility of such new policy instruments stimu-
greening across these various levels. The drama- lates the development of new, environmentally
tist metaphor as used by Schwartz (1998) is benign technologies. An interesting example of
helpful in conceptualizing how these various a new, flexible policy instrument is the use of
levels may affect one another. decentralized, reform-oriented environmental

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184 BUSINESS STRATEGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT


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control strategies through temporary project strategic planning and result in cost savings.
organizations in Sweden (Dobers, 1997a; b). Environmental groups may also benefit due to
Increasingly, governments find it helpful to increased probability of success and higher visi-
engage intermediate organizations, such as trade bility. There are pitfalls too, notably in relation to
organizations, in promoting environmental reform credibility (Hartman and Stafford, 1997; 1998) and
in the organizational field. Christensen et al. (1997) capture (Fuchs and Mazmanian, 1998).
report on such experiences in Denmark where the
state aims to stimulate small and medium-sized Transformation 2. How the organizational
companies to develop environmental manage- field may enhance the greening of
ment schemes through trade organizations. The
suggestion is that the implementation efficiency organizations
of trade organizations relates to the implemen- A significant number of papers presented at Santa
tation model chosen, which in turn relates to the Barbara illustrate the role of the organizational
particular working model of that trade organiz- field in influencing the greening of individual
ation. This Danish experience is reminiscent of the organizations. Over the years many different
Dutch target group approach in environmental greening factors have been mentioned. For
policy: the state negotiates an environmental example, financial institutions, having limited
covenant with trade organizations, for example in direct environmental impacts themselves, can
the field of packaging waste (Neumann et al., play an important role in the process of eco-
1997; Boons, 1998). In France, the government transformation by modifying their lending prac-
asked industry representatives to formulate pro- tices and incorporating environmental concerns in
posals for how to deal with packaging waste in a investment decisions (Scholes, 1997). However,
similar vein (Neumann et al., 1997). Despite dif- an integrated understanding of how greening
ferences in their formal positions and roles in factors relate, and how they may work synergis-
these cases, it may be concluded that trade tically or antagonistically, is beyond the current
organizations and industry representatives can be state of knowledge (Fuchs and Mazmanian, 1998).
new, strong actors in the environmental field Schrama (1997) attempts to build a comprehen-
(Christensen et al., 1997). They play a role in sive theoretical model of corporate responsive-
bridging across various communities of practice ness to environmental issues. His model is based
(Clarke, 1997; Roome, 1997) by stimulating learn- on the assumption that a firms activities have a
ing by government and industry (Neumann et al., real (as opposed to perceived) impact on the
1997). natural and social environments, affecting the
A consequence of the increased importance of interests of stakeholders upon whom the firm
civil society is that the differentiation between may be dependent for resources. Since firms aim
legal and social legitimacy has sharpened. As a to minimize resource dependency, this provides
result, companies may find it more difficult to an incentive for environmental management.
obtain social legitimacy for their activities simply Whether and how this incentive materializes
through state approval. Grolin (1998) discusses depends on the firms awareness and recognition
the experiences of Shell in the Brent Spar conflict. of the importance of environmental aspects in the
He argues that the process of globalization of legal, social and economic realms. Interestingly
multinational companies, such as Shell, invokes enough, this model does not preclude companies
a wider circle of stakeholder interests which from developing pro-active environmental strat-
imposes a broader scope of requirements on egies, nor developing specific competencies in
the companys activities. Thus, multinational doing so (Sharma, 1998), but the question of
companies are increasingly forced to engage in whether companies are able to develop and imple-
open dialogue with stakeholder groups, just as ment environmental management seems to be less
Shell started to do in the final episode of the Brent relevant.
Spar conflict. Firms may turn to other actors in their organ-
Hartman and Stafford (1997; 1998) have ana- izational field to find assistance in developing the
lysed a number of such green alliances, notably capabilities for implementing environmental man-
in the United States. They argue that both agement. Several models were presented, includ-
companies and environmental groups may benefit ing citizen advisory panels (Feyerherm and
from such alliances: for example, companies gain Milliman, 1997) and cross-sectoral industry clubs
early access to the views and demands of environ- with support from academia (Azzone, 1997; Clark,
mental groups, which in the long term may help 1997). CERES, too, plays a role in enhancing

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BUSINESS STRATEGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT 185


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corporate environmental management through a large impact on the greening of that chain
information exchange and stakeholder dialogue, (Boons, 1998). On the one hand, the cases suggest
although a special one because of its insistence on that dominance is not absolute but is a matter of
the publication of environmental reports. degree: i.e. it is related to the specific characteris-
Nash et al. (1997) offer preliminary, yet chal- tics of the supply chain, such as a presence in
lenging, thoughts on the role of CERES as an specific market segments. The very core of stra-
agent of change, following an earlier evaluation of tegic niche management as proposed by Elzen
the Responsible Care Program of the chemical et al. (1997) is that a company creates a supportive
industry (Nash and Howard, 1995). Nash et al. environment for the further development of rela-
argue that the success of private codes, such as tively immature technologies by shielding itself
CERES and Responsible Care, depends on the from full-blown market competition in specific
codes normative scope and the inclusion of a niches. The ability to create an effective coalition
sanctioning mechanism. Based on interviews with with suppliers, clients and institutional actors
a sample of three out of 77 CERES endorsing would seem to underlie dominance, rather than
companies, they find that CERES management absolute size or market power. On the other hand,
and endorsing firms have substantially different there is evidence that the structural position of a
views on the transformational impact of the code. firm may also be a significant source of inertia in
While of limited statistical significance, their find- that it prevents the company from being able to
ings nonetheless raise questions about the sanc- adapt to changing situations. For example, firms
tioning power of corporate codes of conduct. in the agrochemical industry do not succeed in
They suggest that the normative scope of organ- changing their innovation strategies to better
izations such as CERES, which has the most far respond to an increasingly important demand for
reaching of any code, may be less than expected non-pesticide crop protection technologies (Den
because companies can use their endorsement of Hond et al., 1997).
the CERES principles as a symbol of approval, not
as a source for new values to move beyond Transformation 4. A transformation based
regulation and compliance (Nash et al., 1997). As on changes in market demand?
an expanding number of companies sign up to
corporate codes of conduct such as CERES and No papers directly addressed questions of how
others, there is a need and opportunity to evalu- the organizational field is influencing civil society.
ate the impact of the codes of environmental However, the market, in which consumers express
performance, and to determine the forms of values and create norms through their buying
engagement and dialogue that can best realize the behaviour, is an important element of a firms
tranformative potential of the organizational field. organizational field. From this perspective, ques-
tions of how consumers express their needs, to
Transformation 3. How organizations may what extent they make use of environmentally
related knowledge in expressing their needs and
change their organizational field by pursuing to what sort of incentives they are receptive, are
pro-active strategies
highly relevant for studying whether and how
As indicated above, workshops on the agricultural organizations may influence civil society.
and automotive sectors presented several exam- A useful starting point, then, is to study
ples of how relatively small companies may consumers conceptions and understandings of
transform their businesses into being environmen- environmental issues. In an interesting paper, Lane
tally more benign (Chouinard and Brown, 1997; (1997) investigated this in relation to car use. He
Maier et al., 1997; Elzen et al., 1997). The unifying finds that the public is aware of the existence of
question in these cases is how stepwise learning several environmentally beneficial technologies,
and reflection may generate the insights, tools such as the catalytic converter and electric
and arguments needed to make things change. vehicles, but less so of their precise environmental
However, in the different context of developing benefits. His suggestion is that such research may
countries, Edelmann and Ries (1997) suggest be helpful in devising more effective educational
that such firms need external support for their programs. Yet, Meijkamp (1998) warns that con-
strategies to be viable in the long run. sumer behaviour is difficult to influence. So far,
Each of these cases is an interesting extension policy instruments of a motivational, economic
of the suggestion that firms holding a structural and psychological nature, aimed at a reduction of
position of dominance within a supply chain have the environmental impact of consumption, have

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186 BUSINESS STRATEGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT


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largely failed. Moreover, developing eco-efficient at de-industrialization within OECD countries


products may have considerable rebound effects, brought the global nature of manufacturing
as their introduction may have an impact on the into popular perspective (e.g. Blackaby, 1979;
level of consumption and may create a new Bluestone and Harrison, 1982), and over a decade
market demand rather than substitute for existing after sustainability became a household word
products (see, for example, Tenner, 1994). with the publication of the Brundtland report
Overall it should be concluded that there was (Brundtland Commission, 1987), there is still a
relatively little focus on consumer perspectives at tendency, even within the Network, to see glo-
Santa Barbara. There was, for example, only one balization and sustainability as two conceptually
session in which consumption-related issues were separate areas. This conceptual isolation is
directly debated. This may be a consequence of expressed, for example, in studies which draw
the composition of the Networks membership. conclusions about progress towards sustainability
Hence it could be advantageous to invite other by reviewing diffusion of environmental manage-
constituencies such as consumer groups to work ment strategies throughout the branch plants of a
with the Network. It is clear that there is a multinational manufacturer, as opposed to exam-
significant opportunity for companies to refocus ining the environmental and social implications of
their innovative efforts towards addressing func- the full suite of strategies adopted by firms in
tionality in meeting customer needs through ser- their efforts to remain competitive. By isolating
vices, for example, rather than by adding to the environmental strategies from a study of the
range of existing products in order to boost environmental implications of strategies per se, it is
product sales. possible to identify progress in the environmental
performance (e.g. waste minimization) of a specific
firm but at the same time ignore the impacts of
increased material extraction, energy throughput,
SUSTAINABILITY AND and strategies adopted to reduce labour costs on
GLOBALIZATION: A DIALOGUE (OF local communities.
THE DEAF?)
Globalization as the Greening of
The conferences invitation to dialogue on sus-
tainability gave participants sufficient latitude to Everywhere
explore and challenge industrial transformation in A popular reading and critique of globalization is
the context of increasingly popular concepts such that it comprises the eradication of national and
as globalization, and to examine the implications local distinctiveness as the increasing international
for sustainability of the corporate strategies, pub- spread of firms, markets and corporate best
lic policies and material and energy flows associ- practices results in the homogenization of
ated with a geographical expansion of economic spatial variation. In short, in the global village
activity. Many participants, however, took a (McLuhan, 1960), everywhere is becoming just
narrower, managerial perspective on questions like everywhere else. This narrow reading of
of sustainability and globalization by focusing globalization is neither theoretically coherent nor
instead on how recent strategies of global invest- empirically justified. Yet, a number of papers
ment might be harnessed to deliver sustainable tapped into this popular reading of globalization
development. A perceptible tension emerged dur- as geographical shrinkage. They argued that the
ing the course of the conference between those widening international scope of investment under
identifying the economic and environmental per- conditions of increased environmental awareness
formance of enterprises as the sine qua non of is leading to a reduction in the variation of
sustainability, and those who remained sceptical environmental performance from place to place
about congruence between the strategic interests and to a harmonization of national environmental
of multinational capital and the environmental standards. Geisslhofer et al. (1997) for example,
and social pre-requisites of sustainability. focus on the creation of western financial regimes
Such tension can potentially be a creative part in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe as
of the research process, yet it can also degenerate a pre-requisite to greening, while Olson and
into what Fehsenfeld (1997) terms, in the context Rainey (1997) describe the diffusion of ISO 14000
of competing community and corporate objec- to China as playing an essential role in global
tives of environmental reporting, a dialogue of environmental progress, allowing all countries to
the deaf. Two decades after widespread concern catch up to those that have had environmental

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BUSINESS STRATEGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT 187


A. BRAGD ET AL.

issues at the forefront of policy initiatives, tech- suing a global strategy of best practice
nology and regulations for over two decades. In (Schrama, 1997).
short, several authors asserted that the processes
of globalization were creating a more level play- Re-framing Globalization
ing field, a transnational economic and political
environment in which it was increasingly difficult Caution is warranted, however, regarding any
for firms with poor environmental performance to necessary linkage between globalization and a
survive. global greening of industry. Papers by Hveem
On what does this assertion of globalized (1997), Bs (1997), Fauchald (1997) and Greaker
greening depend? A review of the papers, work- (1997) capture the need for rigorous, context-
shops and discussions at Santa Barbara indicates specific research on the links between globaliz-
the assertion that economic and political strate- ation and industrial greening from the perspective
gies of globalization are promoting the greening of the on-going debate over the environmental
of everywhere rests on five assumptions about the impacts of trade liberalization, specifically the
process of globalization. North American Free Trade Agreement, the
1. Globalization of investment leads to the trans- General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and
the anticipated Multilateral Agreement on Invest-
fer of cleaner technologies and best-practice ment. By addressing the impacts of de-regulation
management practices as firms invest in state-
of-the-art equipment at greenfield sites or in and economic growth in political economic
rather than corporate terms, it is possible to
retrofitting and modernizing existing plant
(Molloy and Ueki, 1997; Warren and re-frame an engagement between globalization
and sustainability. Instead of restricting the ana-
Ortolano, 1997; Edelmann and Ries, 1997). lytical focus to the environmental strategies of
2. Market demand for high-value, natural prod- industry, new avenues for research are opened up.
ucts in the industrialized economies can These address the full suite of impacts from
promote investment in organic or environ- de-regulation and economic growth on energy
mentally sensitive production in the develop- and material use, local biophysical and cultural
ing world (Shoobridge, 1997; Chouinard and diversity, and the impacts on locally based pro-
Brown, 1997; Edelmann and Ries, 1997). duction systems as a result of their integration
3. The emergence of international environmental with the world economy.
standards such as the ISO 14000 series There is opportunity here: dialogue between
together with steps towards self-regulation Network researchers and more established lines
through the adoption of voluntary codes of of inquiry within fields such as economic and
corporate responsibility decreases the possi- industrial geography and development economics
bility of adopting different standards of will illustrate the availability of more complex
environmental performance from one part of treatments of the processes of globalization. Take,
the world to the next (Olson and Rainey, for example, the specific assertion that foreign
1997; Peterson, 1997; Nash and Howard, direct investment diffuses cleaner technologies
1995). world-wide. At least three well established
4. The emergence of environmental conditions critiques within industrial geography suggest
attached to credit and insurance, investor con- that the transfer of state-of-the-art technology
cerns about environmental and social liability to the developing world via the global strategies
and end-use consumer pressure is raising the of transnational corporations is not a necessary
threshold of acceptable environmental per- process, but is instead context dependent.
formance world-wide (Geisslhofer et al., 1997; First, optimal strategies for cost reduction dur-
Scholes, 1997). ing the manufacture of standardized products may
5. The globalization of environmental awareness create incentives for firms to retain innovative
and the professionalization of environmental production technologies within core economies
advocacy has increased the influence of stake- and export only relatively mature production
holders, the range of interests they represent technologies to the developing world (Hymer,
and the geographical scale at which these 1976; Mansfield et al., 1983; Barff, 1995). Thus,
interests are expressed. Telecommunication even if one accepts the argument that state-of-
technologies have made it impossible to hide the-art technologies are necessarily more efficient
poor performance the so-called CNN effect and therefore less polluting (see, for example,
and have confirmed the importance of pur- Romm, 1994; Porter and van der Linde, 1995), the

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188 BUSINESS STRATEGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT


BEYOND GREENING

locus of environmental innovation and product Santa Barbara conference and consider their impli-
development is often maintained in core econ- cations for the future of the Greening of Industry
omies and is not necessarily diffused to the periph- Network. One thing stands out clearly: as Fatkin
ery. Next, by suggesting that investments in and Fischer (1998) illustrate, the Greening of
manufacturing plants in the developing world may Industry Network is prospering. The abstract
lack a significant research and development com- book contains more contributions than ever
ponent, this critique also raises questions about the before. The number of participants continues to
ability of investment to promote innovative ca- increase, as does the diversity of professional and
pacity within local economies which is part of any geographical backgrounds of the conference par-
move towards sustainable development. Finally, ticipants. In addition to the established focus on
since the export of state-of-the-art technology corporate and organizational greening, Network
through the investment decisions of multinational researchers are embracing an ever-wider range of
corporations is geographically circumscribed it topics including education, consumer behaviour
cannot be correctly characterized as a global phe- and public policy. Furthermore, the Network has
nomenon. Not only is the impact of investment on strengthened and deepened its activities through
progress towards sustainability highly differenti- the development of an Asian node, based
ated in space, but decisions about the location, at Chulalongkorn Universitys Environmental
timing, size and type of investments reflect an Research Institute in Thailand and supported by
articulation between the global logic of the multi- the United States Asia Environmental Partner-
national and a set of specific local conditions. Thus, ship. Undoubtedly, this geographical expansion
not only is greening not a global phenomenon in will bring new participation, ideas and perspec-
the simplistic sense that it does not occur every- tives to the Network. By focusing on the process
where, but, more fundamentally, local conditions and forms of growth in emerging markets, it
play a central role in determining the precise form also helps address a concern raised at previous
adopted by the global strategies of multinational Network conferences about the worrying gap
firms, including environmental strategies. between discussions and research focused on
Recognition of the continued importance of companies in developed market economies and
local conditions in the context of globalization the problems analysed and described by contribu-
opens up possibilities for research into how tors from the Eastern European countries or the
hybrid forms of industrial organization, resource contributions from the Third World (de Bruijn
management and environmental practice can et al., 1997, p 182).
emerge from the interaction of international After a decade or so of rapid growth and
investment flows and the specific conditions of diversification, research on the greening of indus-
local places. A small number of conference papers try is well poised to take stock of its achievements
illustrate that the operation of global economic and identify research areas and methods best able
and political processes do not free the firm from to move the research agenda forward. This essay
the local conditions within which it must also has advanced the concept of industrial transfor-
operate (Grolin, 1998; Boons, 1998; Saether, mation as a way of bridging between greening
1998). As high profile cases such as Brent Spar and sustainability since it can both facilitate
demonstrate, globally operating firms encounter focused discussion of the nature of greening and
resistance and rejection at specific historical enable engagement with macro-level concepts
moments and in certain places. This reflects the such as sustainability and globalization. More-
socially embedded nature of a corporations over, the notion of transformation leads to ques-
growth trajectory: that is, the rate of growth, its tions of how recent developments in civil society
sectoral composition, spatial location and the and the organizational field may influence the
extent of impacts on environments and commu- greening of organizations, and vice versa.
nities are not immutable, but are actively shaped The task at hand is to continue to craft an
by the interaction of different interests expressed enduring dialogue within the Network on in-
at scales from the local to the global. dustrial transformation which can balance the
diversity of perspectives the hallmark of the
Network and the source of its creative potential
CONCLUSION with the methodological rigour and critical stance
required of a maturing field. The source of the
This is an appropriate point to step back from a Networks vitality is the integration of reflection
discussion of the intellectual achievements of the and analysis with creativity and design in the

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BUSINESS STRATEGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT 189


A. BRAGD ET AL.

research process (Kruijsen, 1998). In this context, new forms of reflexive governance in Danish industry,
individual and collective efforts to improve the paper presented at the Sixth Greening of Industry
Network Conference, Santa Barbara, CA.
rigour and practical utility of research, for Clark, J. (1997) Forum on best management practices: how
example by making explicit research standards, the Northeast Business Environmental Network supports
norms and practices, are positive steps. Yet the improvements in member companies, paper presented at
pursuit of utility and focus should not come at the the Sixth Greening of Industry Network Conference,
expense of infusions of creativity from other Santa Barbara, CA.
disciplines or a diversity of content, style and Clarke, S. (1997) Unravelling networks of learning in the
search for more sustainable technology management,
language. paper presented at the Sixth Greening of Industry
Network Conference, Santa Barbara, CA.
Cohen, M.J. (1997) Risk society and ecological modernis-
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT ation: alternative visions for post-industrial nations,
Futures, 29, (2), 105119.
We wish to thank Theo de Bruijn, Harry Fatkin, de Bruijn, T., Groenewegen, P. and Grolin, J. (1997) Global
Kurt Fischer and all those who reported back to us restructuring a place for ecology? Business Strategy and
on workshops during and after the Santa Barbara the Environment, 6, (4), 173184.
conference, for their valuable input, suggestions den Hond, F., Groenewegen, P. and Vorley, W. (1997)
and ideas. Responsibility for the final shape and Globalization of pesticide innovation and the locality of
content of the paper remains with the authors. sustainable agriculture, paper presented at the Sixth
Greening of Industry Network Conference, Santa
Barbara, CA.
Dobers, P. (1997a) Strategies for environmental control: a
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BUSINESS STRATEGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT 191


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the Sixth Greening of Industry Network Conference, Vellinga, P., Hofkes, M. and den Hond, F. (1997) Inter-
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Industry Network, workshop summary from the Sixth
Greening of Industry Network Conference, Santa
Barbara, CA. BIOGRAPHY
Ulhi, J. (1997) The contributions of higher education,
workshop report from the Sixth Greening of Industry The authors can be contacted via Dr. Gavin
Network Conference, Santa Barbara, CA. Bridge, Department of Geography, University of
Vanek, F. (1997) Incorporating impact of freight movement
into the environmental management agenda of business, Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma 73019-1007,
paper presented at the Sixth Greening of Industry USA. Tel: +1 405 325 5325. Fax: +1 405 325
Network Conference, Santa Barbara, CA. 6090. E-mail: gbridge@au.edu

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192 BUSINESS STRATEGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT