How people enact environmental strategy within organisations

Lockrey, S 2018, How people enact environmental strategy within organisations, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Management, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title How people enact environmental strategy within organisations
Author(s) Lockrey, S
Year 2018
Abstract This PhD project consists of a thesis with publications and focuses on how people enact environmental strategy within organisations. For organisations, the goal of an environmental strategy is to decrease environmental impacts of their activities. Although organisational action for the environment is growing, their efforts often fall short. Moreover, little is known about the actions of individual managers who are tasked to enact environmental strategy. Understanding why organisational goals and individual actions do not always align is important if the planet is to be maintained sustainably.

Research has explored the resources managers use; rules and norms they abide by; and stakeholders they deal with enacting environmental strategy. Researchers have also attempted to understand the cognitive frames people use in decisions aimed addressing at the environment. However how individuals apply agency, being their ability to make judgments and actions, is yet to be articulated for when environmental strategy is implemented. Nor is how social structures that people encounter, being rules, resources, norms and information, affect how they apply agency. Without knowing if people can apply agency, or not, organisations will continue to struggle in addressing the environment. Subsequently, throughout my PhD I address the research question;

How do people within organisations enact environmental strategy?

The research explores people, their agency, and the social structures they encounter in relation to enacting environmental strategy. I adopt an interpretivist philosophy, and an inductive approach. Case studies from tertiary education, aged care and new product development provide contexts where data about people enacting environmental strategy are available. Building on structuration theory I draw on qualitative primary data in the form of observations, interviews, field notes, correspondence, and secondary data in the form of newsletters, reports and literature. Those data, were analysed systematically and generated insights about how people plan, implement, review or refine environmental strategy. Collectively I developed a series of research artefacts, four journal articles and an edited book chapter, with supporting chapters.

My research findings demonstrate that social structures both enable and constrain people when enacting environmental strategy within organisations. Resources such as life cycle assessment and design tools assist individuals to apply their agency through both old routines and new practices that enable environmental impacts to be reduced. Alternatively rules, such as mandated project briefs, and norms redefined by new situations and information that becomes available, guide people as to what needs to be achieved, or limit problematic behaviour.

Social structures are also shown to interact to increase how much power some individuals have when enacting environmental strategy. Collaboration; new information; cross functional expertise; and redefined policies afford people power beyond resources they apply, through the process of environmental strategy. Further, it was found that social structures also interact, as agency and social structures do. Such interactions empower people to take action that benefits the environment in some circumstances.

Finally, some managers are shown to be able to modify organisational contexts when actions for environmental strategy are too difficult. They do so if they are given the time and space for reflection, through processes designed for review; policies mandating change; and resources to use to modify their situations. They can then better support their employees to implement environmental savings by better thinking through the decisions they make.

My PhD provides a nuanced account of environmental strategy, by showing how social structures can be designed to support people enacting them. The mix of rules, norms, resources and practices summarised above enable people to achieve environmental impact reductions. This contribution extends knowledge about stakeholder groups and resources organisations engage with, by demonstrating how individuals interact with them; institutions followed, by showing how they influence people and their agency when environmental strategy takes place; and enriches research about cognitive frames managers use for decision about the environment, by focusing on subsequent actions. Subsequently organisations can now be more confident that environmental strategies they deploy support people and their actions throughout the process, contributing to the future sustainability of the planet.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Management
Subjects Design Practice and Management not elsewhere classified
Keyword(s) Environmental strategy
Social structures
Organisational strategy
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Created: Thu, 11 Apr 2019, 11:35:26 EST by Adam Rivett
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