A Model of Organizational Symbolism: Understanding the Different Shades of Green

Durand, R, Hawn, O and Ioannou, I (2016) A Model of Organizational Symbolism: Understanding the Different Shades of Green. [Conference proceeding]


Despite growing institutional pressures for greater transparency, accountability and sustainability in socio-environmental terms, a number of organizations respond to stakeholder demands and expectations in a symbolic way. We develop a richer conceptual understanding of how, when, and why organizations pursue this strategy. Specifically, we characterize the behavioral antecedents and the resulting heterogeneity in organizational symbolism. We use the context of “greenwashing” - an often monolithically perceived, yet fundamentally strategic and complex organizational phenomenon. Drawing on the concepts of conformity and compliance, symbolic and substantive actions, our model considers this heterogeneity (i.e., the “different shades of green”) based on the materiality of the issue and organizational costs and benefits of resource mobilization (or acquisition) to respond to the issue. More specifically, we suggest a model whereby firms decide whether and in what way to decouple their response to a specific issue based on its materiality, and a calculus of the costs and benefits associated with the use of organizational resources and capabilities versus the costs of inaction. We extend the basic model by considering the moderating role of institutional pressures and organizational characteristics. We offer several propositions for future research to unpack organizational symbolism, its various degrees and antecedents.

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Item Type: Conference proceeding
Subject Areas: Strategy and Entrepreneurship
Date Deposited: 10 Oct 2019 07:34
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2024 02:00
URI: https://lbsresearch.london.edu/id/eprint/1211

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