Exploring and explaining patterns of adaptation and selection in corporate environmental strategy in the USA

Frederik Dahlmann, Stephen Brammer

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47 Citations (SciVal)


While the societal salience of environmental issues appears to have risen substantially in recent years, relatively little is known regarding how environmental responsiveness has evolved over time within business in general, or within particular private sector organizations. In this study we seek to address this deficit by exploring the evolving pattern of environmental strategy within a large sample of US companies over the period 1997 to 2006. Based on evolutionary theories of selection and adaptation as well as Burgelman's strategic change processes, we characterize the pattern of evolving responses to natural environmental issues, distinguish between changes in the overall attention paid to environmental issues that are attributable to the forces of adaptation and selection, and examine the distinctive characteristics of those organizations that have exhibited the most dramatic improvements in their environmental strategy. Our findings indicate that while there is widespread inertia in respect of environmental responsiveness within our sample of companies, those companies that have achieved significant improvements in their environmental strategies do so as a result of a combination of autonomous and induced change processes. Such companies have often recently appointed a new CEO, are relatively strongly engaged in research and development, and have strong prior achievements in environmental strategy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-553
Number of pages27
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011


  • environmental management
  • inertia
  • organizational change
  • KLD


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