In this chapter, we examine the interplay between external legitimacy judgments, internal identity beliefs, and conceptions of sustainability. Based on observation at industry events and interviews with key stakeholders, we examine how organizational actors interpret the concept of sustainability in civil aviation, an industry subject to intense legitimacy threat for its environmental impact. We find that the concept of sustainability is interpreted through a process of naturalization, by which conceptual ties to past practices are forged, and the concept becomes corrupted. We describe three mechanisms (relabeling, bundling, and zooming out) through which concept naturalization occurs, and we show how this process creates resonance between sustainability and an industry ethos, which captures the aspirations, ideals and values of the industry.
We are indebted to the aviation professionals who shared their insights for this research. We also thank Guilherme Azevedo, Robert David, Kim Elsbach, Ann Langley, Suzanne Staggenborg, the editors of this volume as well as participants at the 2013 EGOS conference in Montreal and in the Innovation Research Seminar at Hitotsubashi University for their useful comments on prior versions of this chapter. This research received financial support from the Fonds Québécois de Recherche sur la Société et la Culture and from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Litrico, J.-B. and Lee, M.D. (2018), "Naturalizing Sustainability: How Industry Actors Make Sense of a Threatening Concept", Sustainability, Stakeholder Governance, and Corporate Social Responsibility (Advances in Strategic Management, Vol. 38), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 259-288. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0742-332220180000038015
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