The Environmental Transformation of American Industry: An Institutional Account of Organziational Evolution in the Chemical and Petroleum Industries (1960-1993)

How have the structure and strategy of the American industrial enterprise evolved in response to environmentalism, and what are the dynamics by which this transformation has taken place? To answer these questions, this dissertation draws upon the theoretical field of organizational behavior and in particular, institutional theory. In explaining the emergence of corporate environmental management strategies, I find that what we have been witnessing over the past three decades has been the co-evolution of institutions outside the firm and the structures and strategies inside the firm. Both have been continually evolving as new events or crises call attention to the need for new forms of broadly accepted legitimate behavior. The status of corporate environmental management is explained as the historical product of this external examination, the result of what is described as a negotiation among the internal members of the firm and external members of the institutional field: primarily the government, other firms sharing similar technological and political constraints, and external environmental interests. Using a content analysis of two trade journals and a statistical review of federal case law, both studies being longitudinal from 1960 - 1993, this dissertation links the evolution of corporate attention and strategy, not simply with shifts in environmental costs, but rather with shifts in the makeup and power balances in the institutional field. Observed to be in an interactive relationship, the institutional field, corporate attention and corporate strategy were found to have evolved through a concurrent four stage evolution, with transitions in 1970, 1981-1983 and 1988-1990. To further build this analysis, case studies of the Amoco Corporation and the environmental investor group, the Council of Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) provide additional insights into the institutional model. These results have practical implications for the business manager, policy analyst and environmental activist and theoretical implications for the organizational theorist.

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Author Andrew Hoffman
Institution MIT
Advisor Fred Moavenzadeh, John Ehrenfeld, Robert Thomas, William Ocasio, William Pounds, David Marks
Expected graduation 1995