Some interesting articles this week on different organisational approaches to sustainability.

Drivers of green innovations 
Little research has considered the potential influence of distant, external pressures on the implementation of firms’ ‘green’ innovations, nor how internal firm resources might moderate this relationship. By combining institutional and resource-based theories and examining 649 firms in Australia, the author finds that export intensity is positively associated with green innovations.

Further, as women in leadership roles increase in firms, the relationship strengthens between export intensity and green innovations. The results also suggest that greater levels of absorptive capacity among firms strengthen the relationship between export intensity and green innovations. Contributions of the findings are discussed along with limitations and future research opportunities.

Jeremy Galbreath. 2019. Drivers of Green Innovations: The Impact of Export Intensity, Women Leaders, and Absorptive Capacity.
Journal of Business Ethics, 158(1), 47–61.


A long-term orientation promotes proactive environmental strategy in family companies 
This research proposes an explanation for the conflicting extant evidence about whether family ownership of a business promotes proactive environmental strategy (PES). Based on insights drawn from strategic reference point theory, organisational identity theory, and the socioemotional wealth preservation perspective, the authors propose that family ownership has a moderated–mediated relationship with PES, with commitment as a moderator and long-term orientation as a mediator.

A test using 454 China private firms with different levels of family ownership supports the hypotheses. This shows that PES as a strategy related to business ethics does not happen without commitment and long-term orientation.

Junsheng Dou, Emma Su & Song Wang. 2019. When Does Family Ownership Promote Proactive Environmental Strategy? The Role of the Firm’s Long-Term Orientation.
Journal of Business Ethics, 158(1), 81–95.


Legitimacy strategies in corporate environmental reporting among German DAX companies
Ecological objectives in environmental reports usually promise a high degree of environmental responsibilities in a company’s activities. Several studies have already highlighted that most companies do not keep their promises since stakeholders’ expectations and a company’s capabilities for internal adjustments do not always match.

Thus, a company might use strategic reporting in order not to endanger its legitimacy. However, no study so far has demonstrated how companies use different legitimacy strategies in reporting their environmental objectives over time. To achieve this in their study, the authors focus primarily on findings from legitimacy theory in combination with the legitimacy strategies suggested by Lindblom (in: Gray, Bebbington, Gray (eds) Social and environmental accounting: developing the field, Sage, Los Angeles, pp 51–63, 2010).

To test their theoretical framework empirically, the authors analyse 260 corporate environmental reports of German DAX companies between the years 2000–2014 by coding all disclosed objectives within these reports. Based on this longitudinal approach, the authors are able to identify reporting patterns of the different companies that provide insights into those companies’ environmental reporting legitimacy strategies.

Overall, this study contributes to research on voluntary disclosure by showing that a comprehensive analysis of the reporting pattern of disclosed objectives allows the identification of certain legitimacy strategies.

Philipp Borgstedt, Ann-Marie Nienaber, Bernd Liesenkötter & Gerhard Schewe. 2019. Legitimacy Strategies in Corporate Environmental Reporting: A Longitudinal Analysis of German DAX Companies’ Disclosed Objectives. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 158(1), 177–200.


Drilling their own graves: How the European oil and gas supermajors avoid sustainability tensions through mythmaking 
This study explores how paradoxical tensions between economic growth and environmental protection are avoided through organisational mythmaking. By examining the European oil and gas supermajors’ “CEO-speak” about climate change, the authors show how mythmaking facilitates the disregarding, diverting, and/or displacing of sustainability tensions.

In doing so, the findings further illustrate how certain defensive responses are employed:
(1) regression, or retreating to the comforts of past familiarities,
(2) fantasy, or escaping the harsh reality that fossil fuels and climate change are indeed irreconcilable, and
(3) projecting, or shifting blame to external actors for failing to address climate change.

By highlighting the discursive effects of enacting these responses, the authors illustrate how the European oil and gas supermajors self-determine their inability to substantively address the complexities of climate change. The authors thus argue that defensive responses are not merely a form of mismanagement as the paradox and corporate sustainability literature commonly suggests, but a strategic resource that poses serious ethical concerns given the imminent danger of issues such as climate change.

Read this Open Access article online for free

George Ferns, Kenneth Amaeshi & Aliette Lambert. 2019. Drilling their Own Graves: How the European Oil and Gas Supermajors Avoid Sustainability Tensions Through Mythmaking.
Journal of Business Ethics, 158(1), 201–231.


Do Chief Sustainability Officers make companies greener? 
The authors draw from upper echelons theory to investigate whether the presence of a chief sustainability officer (CSO) is associated with better corporate environmental performance in highly polluting industries.

Such firms are under strong pressure to remediate environmental damage, to comply with regulations, and to even exceed environmental standards. CSOs in these firms are likely to be hired as legitimate agents to lead and successfully implement environmental strategy aimed at reducing pollution levels.

Interestingly and contrary to expectations, the authors found that the presence of a CSO is associated with higher levels of pollution emissions. Nonetheless, the authors found that the CSO has a positive influence on a firm’s environmental performance if faced with strict environmental regulations.

The authors argue that the enforcement of environmental regulations enhances monitoring and accountability of pollution emissions. The sample for this study comprised all the S&P 500 firms required by the Environmental Protection Agency to annually report their toxic emissions to the Toxic Release Inventory. Data were collected for a 6-year period from 2006 to 2011. The authors used a panel data regression and employed propensity score matching to correct for potential endogeneity problems.

Patricia Kanashiro & Jorge Rivera. 2019. Do Chief Sustainability Officers Make Companies Greener? The Moderating Role of Regulatory Pressures.
Journal of Business Ethics, 155(3), 687–701.


Stakeholder theory through the lenses of Catholic Social Thought 
Beyond different starting points, stakeholder theory (ST) and Catholic Social Thought (CST) share many compatible perspectives when analysing the role of the firm in economic activity, especially regarding the attention of the firm to different social and economic actors.

Additionally, ST bears limitations regarding its ethical and anthropological foundation, and also about the legitimation of the different stakeholders’ interests. Therefore, ST lacks clear criteria to solve possible conflicts of interest between stakeholders.

This paper analyses the potentiality of ST, widely accepted in corporate management, to integrate CST principles in order to solve those conflicts. At the same time, the paper studies the possibility of finding in the principles of CST an anthropological and ethical foundation for ST.

This foundation could be the source of criteria to discuss the levels of legitimation and prioritisation between stakeholders´ interests, especially when those interests collide.

Jose Luis Retolaza, Ricardo Aguado and Leire Alcaniz. 2019. Stakeholder Theory Through the Lenses of Catholic Social Thought. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 157(4), 969–980.