Internalization of Environmental Practices and Institutional Complexity: Can Stakeholders Pressures Encourage Greenwashing?

Journal of Business Ethics 147 (2):287-307 (2018)
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Abstract

This paper analyzes the determinants underlying the internalization of proactive environmental management proposed by certifiable environmental management systems such as those set out in ISO 14001 and the European Management and Auditing Scheme. Using a study based on 232 usable questionnaires from EMAS-registered organizations, we explored the influence of institutional pressures from different stakeholders and the role of corporate strategy in the “substantial” versus “symbolic” integration of environmental practices. The results highlighted that although institutional pressures generally strengthen the internalization of proactive environmental practices, the influence of stakeholders can either support the integration of these practices or encourage their superficial adoption. For example, while pressure from suppliers and shareholders contribute to corporate greening, pressure from customers and industrial associations tend to encourage greenwashing. Product quality-oriented strategies also positively influence EMS internalization. The paper sheds light on the institutional complexity underlying the substantial versus symbolic implementation of environmental practices, and questions the dominant isomorphic view of EMS adoption. The paper also bridges the gap between complementary approaches on corporate greening, notably neo-institutional and stakeholder theories.

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