Companies in the 21st century are exposed to a variety of pressures to respond to a
plethora of environmental issues. Understanding how these issues impact companies
over time is, therefore, important for corporate practitioners and policy makers alike.
This thesis investigates the state and evolution of corporate environmental strategy with
the help of a multi-study, longitudinal research design. Theoretically grounded in
complexity theory, a conceptual framework is developed that portrays organisations as
open systems within which agents interact and attempt to improve organisational
fitness. By conceptualising the organisational metaphor of ‘rugged fitness landscapes’,
firms are depicted as complex adaptive systems searching for peaks on a constantly
changing fitness landscape in order to guarantee economic long-term profit and
While study one examines environmental responses among a stratified sample of UK
companies through repeated interviews both in 2006 and 2008, the second study draws
on KLD data from S&P500 corporations for the period 1991 to 2006 by distinguishing
between changes at firm and at population level.
The findings suggest that the state and evolution of corporate environmental strategy are
effectively subordinated to contributing towards firms’ fitness, whereby firms mostly
attempt to remain profitable and obtain social legitimacy. Even over longer periods of
time this behaviour has not changed markedly, except that starting from around 2004
higher levels of oil prices and lower interest rates have spurred more proactive
environmental changes among a number of firms. Equally, different motivations,
individuals and contextual factors appear to influence the varying patterns of evolution.
The thesis fills a gap in the existing literature with respect to the lack of conceptual and
empirical contributions about the evolution of corporate environmental strategy by
providing new insights into how firms are responding to environmental issues over time
and by extending various strands of theory.
|Date of Award||1 Oct 2009|
|Supervisor||Steve Brammer (Supervisor)|
- Environmental strategy
- organisational behaviour
- oil price