The purpose of this paper is to examine why firms governed by the same environmental management standards within an industry exhibit contrasting responses, with some adhering to the letter and others achieving the spirit behind the standards.
Using Arena et al. (2010) as an analytical schema to examine the institutional dynamics behind such contrasting responses, the paper analyses archival and interview data relating to firm strategy, control technology and human expertise in two contrasting Australian forestry firms.
The embedding and decoupling of environmental standards with a firm’s environmental management practices is influenced, first, by the extent to which founder directors and senior management integrate environmental responsibility with the underlying business motives and, second, by the use of organisational beliefs and values systems to institutionalise the integrated strategic rationality throughout the firm. Finally, informed by the institutionalised strategic rationality, the participation and expertise of actors across the organisational hierarchy determine the level to which the design and execution of the eco-control technologies move beyond merely monitoring compliance, and act to facilitate continuous improvement, knowledge integration and organisational learning at the operational level.
This paper responds to institutional theorists’ call for a holistic explanation that considers the interactions among several intra-organisational factors to explain the dynamics behind why some firms decouple while others do not, even though the firms exist in the same social and regulatory context.
The authors would like to thank Deryl Northcott, Lee Parker and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions. The authors also acknowledge the feedback provided by seminar participants at Macquarie University and the 2014 AFAANZ Conference at Auckland.
Heggen, C., Sridharan, V. and Subramaniam, N. (2018), "To the letter vs the spirit: A case analysis of contrasting environmental management responses", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 31 No. 2, pp. 478-502. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-02-2016-2418Download as .RIS
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