Managerial orientations towards environmental issues: a comparative study of British and German managers

Molthan-Hill, P.I., 2007. Managerial orientations towards environmental issues: a comparative study of British and German managers. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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In spite of growing interest in environmental and especially sustainability oriented business literature, little attention has been given to one major actor in this context: the manager. How do managers make sense of environmental issues and deal with them? Even less research has been undertaken to explore cultural variations in managerial orientation to environmental issues. These research questions are addressed through a comparative cross-cultural study with British and German managers in the Food Retail and Energy Sector using a social constructionist approach with a focus on how “environmental knowledge, risks and problems are socially assembled” (Hannigan 1995:31). In this study the differences between the two countries in how managers present the ‘ecological element’ of their identities and how they talk about environmental issues in business are pronounced. While the German managers claim that a sound knowledge in environmental issues is part of being a good manager, British managers stress that they only attend to environmental issues if it is in the interest of their company and its financial objectives. In line with their attachment to a notion of moral neutrality, British managers argue that the business system require them to make the ‘business case’ in assessing whether to include environmental improvements or not. They refer to the existing business system as an ‘objective reality’. This perception of a social system as objective was questioned by Habermas (1984). Applying Habermas’ distinction of ‘instrumental and communicative reason’, it is apparent that German managers employ a different ‘instrumental reason’ to that applied by British managers. In addition to the cost-saving potential of environmental efficiency the German managers favour investing in environmental improvements as long as the survival of the company is not at risk. Furthermore, they constantly intertwine ‘instrumental and communicative reason’ by dwelling on environmental considerations as reasons for their business decisions. It is also presented as socially acceptable by German managers to discuss private views and philosophical insights in business and to raise business related issues in private meetings. The British managers present themselves as distinguishing between and separating the private world from the business world. Differing concepts of ‘economic rationality’ are also applied by the two groups in how they identify and evaluate the relative importance of stakeholders. British managers give priority to shareholders and argue that they do not want to impose their values on customers. In contrast, German managers seldom mention shareholders. Instead they talk for example about the challenges posed by customers who leave packaging at the till. The pronounced differences in the two countries are further highlighted in how managers refer to cultural institutions and influences they perceive to be responsible for their environmental awareness and sensemaking. The study argues that an environmental education in school and exposure to a broad range of subjects beyond the age of sixteen has an impact on how managers draw later in life on different subjects in dealing with business decisions. The insights offered by this study make it possible to propose suggestions on how the teaching of sustainability could be improved.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Molthan-Hill, P.I.
Date: 2007
Rights: This work is the intellectual property of the author Petra Molthan-Hill.You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the owner(s) of the Intellectual Property Rights.
Divisions: Schools > Nottingham Business School
Record created by: EPrints Services
Date Added: 09 Oct 2015 09:34
Last Modified: 10 Feb 2017 11:47

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