Employees and the Environment: Promoting Eco-Friendly Behavior in the Workplace

blue-truck-recycle[We’re pleased to welcome Jennifer Tosti-Kharas of Babson College. Jennifer recently published an article in Organization & Environment with co-authors Eric Lamm and Tom E. Thomas entitled “Organization OR Environment? Disentangling Employees’ Rationales Behind Organizational Citizenship Behavior Toward the Environment.” From Jennifer:]

The origin of this paper came from bridging two different research projects. My co-authors, Tom Thomas and Eric Lamm of SFSU, published a theoretical paper regarding how individuals develop attitudes toward organizational sustainability. Meanwhile, Eric and I have performed research on what motivates employees to perform sustainable behaviors. We look at what we term organizational citizenship behaviors toward the environment ­ OCB-Es for short ­ which are voluntary actions at work that help conserve resources, things like recycling, printing double-sided, etc. This paper joined these two streams of inquiry to examine how the reasons why people think it is important to act sustainably at work relates to their performance of OCB-Es and we tested it empirically.

Most past research on this topic has used a measure of how important people think O&E_Mar_2012_vol26_no1_Cover_Final.inddsustainability is in general, meaning for broad ecological reasons, but never contextualized within a work organization. In the paper we distinguish between believing sustainability is important in and of itself, what we term an ³eco-centric rationale,² and believing it is important as a means to an end, specifically a business end, which we term an ³organization-centric rationale.² We also differentiate employees¹ own rationales about why it is important for their companies to operate sustainably from their perceptions about why their organizations believe it is important. Perhaps the most surprising finding when we surveyed 489 working adults across a wide range of organizations and occupations was that people were more likely to perform OCB-Es when they believed their organizations valued sustainability, regardless of their own personal beliefs about the importance of sustainability. These findings held for both eco-centric and organization-centric rationales. This to us was surprising, as lots of research would lead us to predict that personal values would trump perceived organizational values. Yet, we find the opposite, which suggests that perhaps people perform voluntary sustainability behaviors at work not just because they think it¹s important, but because their company believes it is important. It is worth noting that we included in our OCB-E measure not only simple, everyday tasks, but also ³higher-level² behaviors, like collaborating with other employees or making suggestions to supervisors to increase organizational sustainability.

These findings raise several interesting and timely implications for organizational leaders looking to increase employee sustainability behaviors. Since employee perceptions of organizational rationales for sustainability were so important in motivating OCB-Es, we advise communicating corporate values around sustainability and resource conservation as clearly as possible. By contrast, trying to screen employees for pro-environmental values seemed to be less important in a company that clearly communicated these values, since even employees who didn¹t buy in on their own behaved more sustainably when they believed their employers cared about the environment.

The abstract for the article:

Scholars and managers have raised the question of how to encourage employees to perform discretionary pro-environmental behaviors at work, termed organizational citizenship behaviors toward the environment (OCB-Es). This study examined how rationales for organizational sustainability relate to employees’ OCB-Es. We considered two rationales—eco-centric and organization-centric—and two sources—employees’ rationales and their perceptions of their employers’ rationales. Results from 489 working adults across a variety of organizations and occupations revealed that both eco-centric and organization-centric rationales at both individual and perceived organizational levels related to employees’ OCB-Es. Furthermore, we found interactive effects, such that employees’ perceptions of their organizations’ rationales were more important than their own rationales in determining OCB-Es. These findings contribute to a theoretical understanding of the complex and interrelated factors motivating employees to perform voluntary sustainability behaviors in organizations. In addition, our results are valuable for managers looking to increase employee sustainability behaviors.

You can read the article “Organization OR Environment? Disentangling Employees’ Rationales Behind Organizational Citizenship Behavior Toward the Environment” from Organization & Environment free for the next two weeks by clicking here.

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*Truck image attributed to MIKI Yoshihito (CC)

Applying a Business Model Perspective to Sustainability Solutions

[We’re pleased to welcome Caroline Gauthier of Grenoble Ecole de Management. Professor O&E_Mar_2012_vol26_no1_Cover_Final.inddGauthier co-authored an article with Bettina Gilomen of Grenoble Ecole de Management in Organization & Environment entitled “Business Models for Sustainability:
Energy Efficiency in Urban Districts”.]

  •  What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

The disruptive nature of many sustainability solutions may be the main barrier to their implementation and dispersal: adopting a business model perspective may help address this problem.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

The implementation of sustainable solutions often relies on projects being implemented and managed collectively, so that organizations need to adapt their business models to deliver value propositions collectively. Some actors are working collectively to deliver innovative solutions for energy efficiency and therefore completely change the rules of the energy supply game.

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

Sustainability issues should be addressed with a collective business models perspective.

The abstract:

The disruptive nature of many sustainability solutions may be the main barrier to their implementation and dispersal: adopting a business model perspective may help address this problem. Previous literature has explored how organizations can convert their supply chains and customer interfaces toward a sustainability focus, but has generally not considered links to other business model elements—such as value propositions and financial models—in exploring business model transitions. Moreover, the implementation of sustainable solutions often relies on projects being implemented and managed collectively, so that organizations need to adapt their business models to deliver value propositions collectively, a phenomenon that research on business models for sustainability should address. This article addresses these issues by exploring changes in business model elements in detail via an in-depth qualitative study of two French sustainable urban projects—Caserne de Bonneand IssyGrid®. Our results show, first, that it is worth considering the role played by business model elements (the value proposition and the financial model) that literature does not usually discuss in enabling the management of or transition to business models for sustainability. Second, considering all four business model elements allows us to develop a typology of their transformations in organizations working toward sustainable solutions. Third, introducing the necessary collective dimension of sustainable solutions highlights the role of agency in facilitating their development and adoption.

You can read “Business Models for Sustainability: Energy Efficiency in Urban Districts” from Organization & Environment free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know about all the latest research from Organization & Environment? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

The Business of Bumble Bees: A Look at the Relationship Between Business and Biodiversity Loss


Small though they may be, bumble bees play a large part in the environment. As pollinators, bees assist in the reproductive process of flowering plants, including crops that produce food, fiber, drugs, and fuel. More than a third of the world’s crops rely on bees as pollinators, which makes the population decline of bees in recent years particularly alarming. In their article, “Invisible Compromises: Global Business, Local Ecosystems, and the Commercial Bumble Bee Trade,” published in Organization & Environment, authors Carol Reade, Robin Thorp, Koichi Goka, Marius Wasbauer, and Mark McKenna use the bumble bee trade as a lens to explore the complex relationship between global business and ecosystem health, including biodiversity loss. In addition, the article explores ways that businesses can adopt more sustainable practices.

The abstract:

The purpose of this article is to challenge organizational scholars, management educators, and business leaders oae coverto consider more deeply the impact of global business activities on local ecosystems. Drawing on the management, sustainability, and entomology literature, we illustrate the complex relationship between global business and biodiversity loss through the lens of the commercial bumble bee trade. Global firms in this trade rear and supply bees for greenhouse crop pollination. We build on a well-known global strategy framework used in management education by adding a sustainability dimension, and offering propositions for the relationship between global business strategy and the strength of environmental sustainability. We conclude that a locally responsive, place-sensitive business strategy supports the strongest degree of environmental sustainability, and addresses the invisible compromises to ecosystem health that may result from the efforts of global firms to provide otherwise beneficial products and services.

You can read “Invisible Compromises: Global Business, Local Ecosystems, and the Commercial Bumble Bee Trade” from Organization & Environment by clicking here. Want to be notified of all the latest research like this from Organization & Environment? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

Muhammed Saidul Islam on Why Farmed Fish Costs More Than You Think

fresh-fish-for-sale-1342715-mIf your New Year’s resolution was to eat healthier or lose weight, you mostly likely came across advice to eat more fish. The American Heart Association, for example, recommends 3.5 oz servings of fatty fish two times a week. But things can get a little confusing at the grocery store when you’re faced with the dilemma of getting a piece of salmon labelled “wild caught” or “farmed.” What’s the difference? Why not go with the cheaper option?

In the latest issue of World Future Review, associate editor Rick Docksai interviewed Muhammed Saidul Islam, author of “Confronting the Blue Revolution: Industrial Aquaculture and Sustainability in the Global South.” In the interview on aquaculture business, Docksai and Islam discuss sustainability, workplace conditions, marketing schemes, and more.

In coastal communities throughout the developing world, farmers are WFR_72ppiRGB_powerpointcordoning off swaths of beaches, lakes, and rivers to cultivate stocks of fish, shellfish, and shrimp for markets in the more affluent parts of the globe. These “aquaculture” industries, as the fish farms are known, satisfy a massive global consumer demand for seafood while bringing considerable business profits to the farmers and distributors who make their livelihoods in them. But the business carries a heavy price for the communities in which the aquaculture industries set up shop, according to Muhammed Saidul Islam, an assistant professor of sociology at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Islam investigates the expansion of aquaculture businesses up-close in his new book, Confronting the Blue Revolution: Industrial Aquaculture and Sustainability in the Global South (University of Toronto Press, 2014), and finds widespread destruction of marine estuaries, wetlands, and coastal forests in their wake. What’s more, nearby farmlands and subsistence fishing industries have been ruined as a result of these aquaculture farms, to the point where whole communities have risen up in protests—protests that local governments have often suppressed with shockingly brutal force. Meanwhile, the farms are dependent on large cadres of impoverished workers who suffer many overuse injuries and debilitating infections due to slavishly long hours, poor sanitation, and lack of health care.

You can read “The Hidden Cost of Seafood: An Interview with Muhammed Saidul Islam” from World Future Review. for free by clicking here. Like what you read? Click here to sign up for e-alerts and have all the latest news and research from World Future Review sent directly to your inbox!

The CSR Agenda: Part 3 of 5

Editor’s note: Today we continue our series on corporate social responsibility with top-tier research that answers key questions in the debate. Have a paper of your own to submit? Business & Society is now accepting papers on corporate sustainability, CSR in China, sustainable development and financial markets, and more.

Part Three: How does CSR impact the individual?

W. Randy Evans of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Walter D. Davis of the University of Mississippi published “An Examination of Perceived Corporate Citizenship, Job Applicant Attraction, and CSR Work Role Definition” in the September 2011 issue of Business & Society. The abstract:

Recent perspectives on corporate social responsibility (CSR) have called for increased research on how CSR affects individuals. Research is needed to examine whether individual differences affect the relationship between CSR and individual reactions to CSR. In response, this experimental study examined how perceptions of corporate citizenship influence job applicant attraction and work role definitions. Personal values and education concerning CSR are considered as interactive factors affecting the influence of perceptions of corporate citizenship. Results indicate that perceived corporate citizenship had a greater impact on job applicant attraction for those individuals who received prior education regarding CSR and for those who were higher in other-regarding value orientation. Furthermore, perceived corporate citizenship had a positive impact on the extent to which participants defined CSR as a personal work role responsibility. The authors also discuss the practical implications of these results for job applicant attraction and employee socialization.

Click here to read on.

Tracy A. Jenkin, Lindsay McShane, and Jane Webster, all of Queen’s University, published “Green Information Technologies and Systems: Employees’ Perceptions of Organizational Practices” in the June 2011 issue of BAS. The abstract:

In this study, we examine the extent to which employees recognize the importance of information technologies and systems (IT/S) in developing and implementing environmental initiatives. To address this question, we first review past research on this topic and draw on a framework for examining environmental motivating forces, strategies, and employee environmental orientations. We then analyze qualitative data based on in-depth interviews with employees in financial services organizations. Our aim is to develop a richer understanding of how employees currently view IT/S issues in relation to environmental sustainability and if similarities exist between different types of financial institutions. We also assess the extent to which these employee perceptions align with both actual organizational practices, as captured in interviews with information technology managers, and practices espoused by organizations, as reflected on their corporate websites. Our findings suggest that organizations are still in the infancy stage of awareness and adoption of “Green” IT/S. As a result, we identify four types of gaps: knowledge gaps, practice gaps, opportunity gaps, and knowing–doing gaps. We suggest that future research should draw on absorptive capacity, organizational learning, and social marketing theories to help align employees’ attitudes, cognitions, and behaviors and to drive environmental changes.

Click here to read the article in Business & Society and here to learn more about the journal.

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Up next in the series: How are the current shifts in CSR strategy playing out?

Business and Society celebrates 50 years!

Business and Society was founded in 1960 and is continuing the celebration of their 50th anniversary volume with a June 2011 issue, which features a Special Research Forum (Part II) on Strategic Corporate Responsibility and Environmental Sustainability. The journal’s editor, Duane Windsor, kindly shared the articles from this special issue with Management Ink.

Timo Busch and Volker H. Hoffmann, of ETH Zurich, published “How Hot Is Your Bottom Line? Linking Carbon and Financial Performance.”

Tracy A. Jenkin, Lindsay McShane and Jane Webster, of Queen’s University, published “Green Information Technologies and Systems: Employees’ Perceptions of Organizational Practices.”

Peter Jack Gallo, Creighton University, and Lisa Jones Christensen, University of North Carolina, published “Firm Size Matters: An Empirical Investigation of Organizational Size and Ownership on Sustainability- Related Behaviors.”

Yadong Luo, University of Miami, published “Strategic Responses to Perceived Corruption in an Emerging Market: Lessons From MNEs Investing in China.”

Christie H. Amato and Louis H. Amato, both from University of North Carolina, published “Corporate Commitment to Global Quality of Life Issues: Do Slack Resources, Industry Affiliations, and Multinational Headquarters Matter?”

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