Corporate Environmental Management - Managing (in) a New Practice Area

University dissertation from Institute for Economic Research, Box 7080, 220 07 Lund, Sweden

Abstract: Adopting a phenomenological, sensemaking-based approach, this dissertation reviews and critiques a variety of theories proposed as explanations of corporate “greening” and the evolution of corporate environmental management (CEM), and then presents and analyzes an organization study to explore in greater depth how sensemaking can be used for research in this context. As its object, the ethnographically inspired organization study focuses upon CEM as an area of managerial and organizational practice. Analysis of the study leads to the idiographic conclusion that, when its purpose is ambiguous and in dispute in an organization, CEM emerges in a way that should not be characterized as the rational implementation of a coherent set of tools and practices, nor as the unfolding of an impersonal, mechanistic process, nor as the passage of organization members from one coherent mental state to another, but rather as a complex interplay of reality and identity construction (i.e., sensemaking) processes. In their sensemaking, CEM practitioners continually struggle with the dilemma of needing to legitimize CEM in conventional business terms, although environmental problems are fundamentally not economic in nature. They invest great personal interest and commitment in this struggle. As long as ambiguity and disagreement about CEM persist (and given that resources continue to be made available to CEM), this process continues, and an increasingly elaborate, refined practice area is built in which constructed thought-objects, language, narratives, organizational arrangements, and action to a large extent focus on the legitimation of CEM and the maintenance/defense of the identity of CEM practitioners.

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