Sustainability programmes for business: place and practice within the context of relevant developments in organisation theory

by Stone, Lesley-Joan (née

Abstract (Summary)
Restricted Item. Print thesis available in the University of Auckland Library or available through Inter-Library Loan. Keywords: sustainability, sustainable development, business, voluntary initiative, demonstration project, cleaner production, pollution prevention, environmental management, organisation/organization theory Note that the repetition is to enhance the potential for the thesis to be found when searching using NZ, as well as other spelling, organisational/organizational change, organisational/organizational learning, Target Zero, New Zealand. Sustainable development requires that all human activities be carried out without causing permanent damage to the life-supporting capacity of the natural environment. In order to progress towards sustainability, fundamental changes need to be made to the way human activities are carried out. Businesses have a significant role to play in the transition to sustainability. However, environmental concerns have not traditionally been incorporated into business practice. A wide range of methods have been developed and applied to encourage businesses to adopt sustainable practices. This thesis focuses on voluntary initiatives that encourage businesses to systematically identify and tackle the sources of their environmental effects, rather than the symptoms. These types of initiatives are encapsulated by concepts such as "pollution prevention" (PP) and "cleaner production" (CP). Programmes that encourage CP/PP have been very successful in getting businesses to prevent or reduce wastes by making changes to the resources and processes they use, and, to a lesser extent, the products they make. However, they appear to have been less successful in getting them to make changes at an organisational level. This is not surprising, given that their focus has tended to be elsewhere. However, evidence suggests that the changes undertaken by businesses involved in such programmes have tended to be 'one-off' and their involvement short-term. This is of concern because of the magnitude of some of the changes that are required and the need, therefore, for incremental and continuing improvement. My thesis is that these types of sustainability programmes could benefit from critical examination of their place and practice within the context of developments in organisation theory. The thesis is tested by: l) identifying developments in organisation theory that are of relevance to organisational change; 2) evaluating the effectiveness of an example of a sustainability programme for business, and 3) considering the results of the evaluation within the context of relevant theoretical developments and change management models. A literature search identifies key developments in organisation theory. They are presented in terms of five approaches that are commonly distinguished in the literature: rational or mechanistic approaches; humanist or social approaches; contingency approaches; political approaches, and cultural approaches. In addition, developments specific to organisational change theory, particularly in terms of change management and models for managing change, are considered. The example chosen is the Target Zero (TZ) project - a two-year, multi-company project designed to demonstrate the value and applicability of cleaner production in New Zealand (NZ). Participants included the Electricity Corporation of NZ (ECNZ), the NZ Ministry for the Environment, local authorities (councils) and power retailers in two regions, and 25 "demonstration" organisations. The evaluation is presented in three parts. Part I uses staff perceptions regarding the success, benefits and value of the project. Part II uses key indicators of environmental management (EM) and CP, as well as relevant indicators of organisational culture and staff attitudes to track changes in the demonstration group and compares them with a control group. Part III uses monthly progress reports for each demonstration organisation to identify organisational factors that influence change. Together, the results emphasise the importance of social factors in the implementation of cleaner production/pollution prevention projects. They suggest two primary and three secondary areas for improving the effectiveness of such projects. Commitment and continuous improvement are identified as primary areas because of their primacy in the literature and the critical roles they have to play in sustainability programmes. Leadership, support, communication, involvement and compatibility of the project are identified as secondary areas for improvement because, while important, they are still subservient to commitment and continuous improvement. Each area is discussed in terms of the extent to which it is (or is not) covered in key examples of CP/PP/EM literature. This is then compared with relevant developments in organisational change theory, particularly as they relate to change management models. A model for improving the ability of such programmes to deliver commitment and continuous improvement towards sustainability is developed. The model draws on a range of change management models and focuses on the need for sustainability programmes to bring about an iterative, critically reflective cycle of learning. The model is characterised by: a diagnostic phase (to enable the programme to be customised); initiation (to engage management and demonstrate leadership; visioning (to engage and involve all staff); iterative use of the vision (to motivate, inspire and drive continuous improvement); distinctive tasks (to clarify the basis for involvement and spread the load); participatory design of the programme (to enhance commitment), and inclusion of top level managers at key stages in the process (to maximise involvement, leadership, commitment, progress and support). The model also includes six distinct types of activities, designed to bring about iterative and critically reflective learning processes within the organisation: 1) visioning: 2) assessment of the status of the business in relation to the vision; 3) short, focused audits using CP/PP tools; 4) actions based on the results of the audits; 5) evaluation of actions in relation to the vision, and 6) communication of results. The last activity forms the basis for the next cycle during which the contributions of actions to the vision are acknowledged, the status of the organisation re-assessed and the next audit cycle begun.
Bibliographical Information:


School:The University of Auckland / Te Whare Wananga o Tamaki Makaurau

School Location:New Zealand

Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:01/01/2002

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