Andrew J. Hoffman and Marc J. Ventresca
Organizations, Policy, and the Natural Environment recasts standard approaches to corporate environmentalism and environmental policy studies in light of recent developments in organization theory and institutional analysis. We draw on the empirical case of the natural environment to redirect theoretical emphases in institutional theory and highlight organizational field-level analysis and the linkage between social meaning and social structures within policy worlds. The book introduces a new category of research questions and approaches them from the intersection of environmental policy studies, sociology of the environment, and management and organization theory. These questions are both theoretical and substantive, making use of a current, contested policy domain to enrich and extend theory in organizational sociology and strategy.
What is at stake here? Issues of environmental sustainability, management, and corporate environmentalism are high on the global policy agenda today. They are of concern to specialty researchers, policy makers, business executives, and others (Becker and Jahn, 1999; Rothenberg, 2002). Consider the developments that have brought these issues into policy dialogue: validation of early claims by then-unknown authors and scientists sounding alarms about the fate of the planet (such as Carson, 1962); the rise of recycling and struggles over political economy and alternative technologies (Weinberg, Pellow, and Schnaiberg, 2000; Karnoe and Garud, 2002; Lounsbury, Ventresca, and Hirsch, forthcoming); complex struggles over public infrastructures and the environment (Espeland, 1998); local social movements' expanding concern about "global" environmental issues (Dunlap, 1991; Meyer and others, 1997); and the growing number of multinational corporations that are making environmental issues central to corporate strategy (Hoffman, 1997, 2000; Hart, 1997).
Environmental issues and the policy initiatives related to them have altered basic political, economic, and social institutions that organize the operation of industrial and market economies today. The empirical studies in this book analyze how this happens-how institutions define environmental problems, devise plausible solutions, and impede or foster implementation. Moving beyond arguments grounded in economic, legal, or technical studies, the arguments developed in this book treat this complex evolution of ideas, resources, social structures, and practices as an organizational process that takes shape in broader, increasingly institutionally structured policy fields.
The case of corporate environmentalism provides an example of how the very conception of policy issues evolves over time through interested actions (Hoffman, 1997; Prakash, 2000). In the 1970s, corporations viewed environmentalism as an external threat to established business practices and profits. But, through a decades-long process that included changes in influential actors, the redefinition of the role of government, the rise of related social movements, court battles and legislative activity, and much public attention, environmentalism has emerged as a routine strategic consideration of major corporations. Over the course of roughly three decades, norms for corporate environmental practice have radically changed. National governments enacted myriad environmental regulations. The United Nations established global treaties on environmental issues such as endangered species protection, toxic chemical controls, hazardous waste shipments, pesticide use, tropical timber management, and global climate change. Trade agreements made by the World Trade Organization, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the European Union address a wide range of environmental issues. The insurance, banking, and investor communities include environmental concerns in their underwriting, loan granting, and investment procedures. And new forms of industrywide programs (such as the Chemical Manufacturers Association Responsible Care Program), environmental management standards (such as ISO14001 and EMAS), performance reporting procedures (such as environmental annual reports), and staffing objectives (such as environmental vice presidents and the inclusion of environmentalists on boards of directors) are increasingly commonplace.
This complex array of organizational initiatives is marked by and proceeds in part because of conflicting logics and meaning systems, heterogeneous governance arrangements, and a plurality of types of actors. For example, issues of environmental protection are contested among a wide range of interested parties, both public and private, and including both collective and individual persons (MacNaughten and Urry, 1998). This makes corporate environmental management issues a strategic research area for organizational scholars trying to understand change processes that span "levels of analysis" and the complex social systems in which they occur.
In this chapter, we introduce the organizational and field-level approach developed in this book. We join recent work on field-level analysis with analytic problems of environmental policy and management to illustrate the usefulness of an organizational approach. We discuss how taking an organization and field-level approach can illuminate the emergence and significance of "policy theories" (Weiss, 1998) that define issues in particular ways, elucidating the roles of ambiguity, expertise, and contested natures in policy problems, their proposed solutions, and possible interventions. We contrast our approach with other disciplinary approaches commonly used to study environmental issues, and track the history and tensions in two specific legacy research domains, sociology of the environment and environmental management, to examine the benefits of specialty research subfields. We suggest six new research directions exemplified by the work in this book. We close by introducing the key arguments and findings in the chapters, and discuss their contributions to organizational, policy, and environmental research. Overall, we use the empirical cases in the chapters to inform redirections in institutional theories of organization and to highlight opportunities for policy studies of this tradition.
THE INTELLECTUAL FOUNDATION OF THE BOOK
This book presents a framework and empirical studies grounded in institutional theories of organization (Powell and DiMaggio, 1991; Scott, 1991, 1995) to examine the interplay of organizations, policy, and the natural environment. Our analytic stance starts with four premises. (1) Policy issues and the broader fields of expertise and activity that form around them are organizational productions (Beamish, 2001; Egri and Pinfield, 1994; Hoffman and Ventresca, 1999; Meyer and Rowan, 1977). (2) The social worlds that help to stabilize and make policy issues recognizable are complex systems of organized activity shaped not only by expertise, technology, and scientific activity but also by social processes of identity construction, negotiation, and control (Becker, 1982; Clarke, 1995; Espeland, 1998; Haas, 1990). (3) Changes in the scale and scope of environmental issues and the policy communities involved, especially as they involve shifts from local to global activity, merit direct analytic attention and pose challenges to standard approaches in policy studies (Frank, Hironaka, and Schofer, 2000; Liberatore, 1991). (4) We offer the book in part to suggest that contested nature of environmental issues, coupled with changes in the scale and scope of governance, invite institutional and organizational analysis to complement other research approaches (Hoffman, 2001; Jennings and Zandbergen, 1995; Starik and Marcus, 2000).
Recent initiatives in corporate alliances and strategies illustrate these premises. They provide evidence of activity occurring outside the boundary of any one organization and beyond conventional regulatory activity. Much of this activity is occurring at a global level, that is, among organizational actors working across national boundaries, authorized to act by transnational authority, and actively creating policy venues external to any one country's laws and regulations. Consider the following examples of field-level debate among heterogeneous organizational actors:
In 2000, seven multinational companies (DuPont, Shell, Alcan Aluminum, BP, SuncorEnergy, Pechiney, and Ontario Power Generation) joined in a partnership with the environmental group Environmental Defense to voluntarily reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases even though the Kyoto Treaty that mandates the reductions was not ratified.
Also in 2000, fifty multinational corporations joined forces with activist groups, labor unions, and the United Nations by signing a global compact on environmental protection and human rights. Signatories included executives from companies such as DaimlerChrysler, Nike, Royal Dutch Shell, Bayer, and Unilever as well as activist groups such as the World Wildlife Fund and Amnesty International.
In 1992, the Geneva-based International Standards Organization began developing ISO14001, a voluntary set of standards to promote the adoption of corporate environmental responsibility into corporate management systems worldwide. Representatives from companies such as IBM, Eastman Kodak, and British Telecom established specifications and guidelines. Now ISO certification is necessary to do business in certain multinational markets (such as the European Union). By late 1998, more than 5,500 organizations had been certified to ISO 14001.
In 1990, the Chemical Manufacturers' Association (CMA) recognized that all its member companies share a common reputation on the environment and instituted a program called Responsible Care that bound its 170 members to a set of ten principles designed to improve environmental performance. After Responsible Care was unveiled, similar programs emerged in other industries such as petroleum, printing, textiles, paper, lead, and automobiles. Like Responsible Care, they are built on the belief that the environmental reputation of a single company is dependent on the reputation of the entire industry.
These examples provide evidence of coordination and cooperation at the global field level. Some represent novel coalitions, forging new kinds of industry relationships in the service of governing environmental issues. Moreover, they provide new organizational venues for the collective definition of key problems and solutions in a way that redefines the community of relevant policy actors (Haas, 1990; Haas, Keohane, and Levy, 1993). These developments also highlight why organization theory and field-level perspectives are especially timely and should usefully extend studies of organizational strategy to consider the processes by which collective notions of rationality form (DiMaggio and Powell, 1983; Galvin, 2002; Hoffman, 1997; Jennings, Martens, and Zandbergen, Chapter 3; Rosenkopf, Metiu, and George, 2001; Scott, 1983). This style of analysis shows how new forms of legal, political, social, and economic institutions mediate between organizational and societal expectations regarding what is legitimate practice with respect to the environment. In this book, we examine such organizational and institutional processes as they affect policy formation, implementation, and consequences.
ARGUMENTS: FIELD-LEVEL INSTITUTIONS AND COLLECTIVE RATIONALITY
Research in organizational and management sociology emphasizes attention to field-level systems and their institutional and cultural features, the "vertical" aspects of social organization, an approach that distinguishes a field-level analysis from an industry focus or a corporate demography approach (Fligstein, 2001). An organizational field is "a community of organizations that partake of a common meaning system and whose participants interact more frequently and fatefully with one another than with actors outside the field" (Scott, 1995: 56). A field is an empirical trace, and may include constituents such as government actors, critical exchange partners, intermediaries in the value chain, professional and trade associations, policy entrepreneurs, regulatory bodies, and organized public opinion evident in consumer or other organized interests-all constituencies that interact and contend in the definition of the broader field logics, governance institutions, and activity (Fligstein, 1996; Scott, 1991; McDonough, Ventresca, and Outcalt, 2000). But more than just a collection of influential organizations, a field comprises common channels of dialogue and discussion focused on central policy issues (Hoffman, 1999).
Scott (2001) identifies three basic models (or "pillars") of institutions that undergird conceptions of a field: cognitive, normative, and regulative. Each is grounded in different (disciplinary) assumptions about what institutions are and how they affect organizational behavior and activity. They range from conceptions of explicit, direct provision of incentives for action to tacit processes embodied in taken-for-granted assumptions (Zucker, 1983). These three analytic conceptions offer distinct vantage points for exploring institutional processes at work in a particular empirical case. Each has practical value for understanding the institutional framing of policy issues and for informing organizational analysis (Hoffman and Ventresca, 1999). Each provides metatheoretical descriptions of collective reality for the organization-explanations of what is and what is not, what can be acted upon and what cannot. Finally, each opens further analytic questions about the cross-effects among these three source mechanisms of institutional effects. As institutional arrangements emerge, contend, become stable, and change, the proximate field of structured activity comprises both sources of empowerment by providing alternative conceptions of action and sources of control by limiting options for consideration (Jepperson, 1991; Fligstein, 1992).
By highlighting field-level approaches, the chapters chart synergies between organizational and environmental studies, a redirection of the core "pillars" approach to institutional analysis, and an alternative to the aspiration of a distinct, separate subfield of environmental scholarship. We view environmentalism and the accompanying policy debates as a domain of conflict among ideologies. A shift in these ideologies is manifest in the shifts in roles, meaning systems, and dominant logics. Thus at the core, this book treats these shifts as social contests among competing field-level constituencies. Broad issues of environmental protection, generally of environmental quality and social interests, are neither socially nor politically separable from constituting the policy theories that shape them, nor are they made tractable by technical analysis alone. "The question must always beasked, for whom and from whom is [the environment] being protected?" (Schnaiberg, 1980: 5).
This book introduces a synthesis of ideas that cross the theoretical domain of institutional and cultural analyses with the empirical domain of environmental issues as they relate to organization studies, strategy, and management. This makes explicit opportunities to specify institutional and social processes that configure organizational structures and policy, taking advantage of environmental management as a critical empirical site. The field-level focus directs attention to three aspects of field situation: to shifts in ideologies and cultural logics that specify conditions of feasibility and what is imaginable; to the governance arrangements that establish regulatory possibilities and implementation; and to the changing role and authority of actors who struggle, negotiate, and redefine the terms of policy issues in these fields (Scott, 1994; 2001; Hoffman and Ventresca, 1999).
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