Green Ideas in Business

During the 1990's a view that the understanding and management of environmental issues is a prerequisite for and inseparable from business success has taken root in an increasing number of organizations. In this study, this view is referred to as a business-driven ideology which contains views of what the present situation is like, what the goal is, and what the means for reaching this goal are. The study examines how elements of such an ideology were transmitted with the desired effect to institutionalize the ideology in Electrolux, a large Swedish appliance manufacturer. The empirical research was conducted through 13 months of participation in the daily work of environmental "specialists" and general managers. The business-driven ideology emerged from a variety of ideas triggered by a number of pressures and experiences which then gave rise to the ideology. The ideology filled the function of both coupling and decoupling the management of different institutional demands, and was propagated in the company by "ideology proxies". The difficulty of the task faced by the environmental specialists was that their co-workers did not represent a homogenous set of ideas as to how a relationship between environmental concerns and business consideration should be formed, but rather a polyphony of different ideas of how to view environmental issues and work with them. In order to homogenize such views, environmental specialists initiated a change program. This change program aimed at encouraging the organization members to join a "thought world" where the business-environment relationship was seen as obvious and potentially good for business. The elements of the ideology were propagated thoughout the organization on different fora. Depending on the forum, different elements of the ideology were put forward, and the use of arguments differed accordingly. In their efforts to institutionalize the ideology, proxies drew upon other, already institutionalized discourses, such as Market, Nature and Management. The thesis illustrates the complex relationship between a planned institutionalization, concentrated on a specific company, and the uncontrolled process of institutionalization taking place in the wider context.

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Author Lars Strannegard
Institution GRI, Goteborg University, Sweden
Advisor Barbara Czarniawska and Rolf Wolff
Expected graduation 1998