The Voluntary Adoption of Green Electricity by Ontario-Based Businesses

by Berkhout, Thomas

Abstract (Summary)
This paper explores the contextual factors that promote and inhibit firms? motivations to adopt a voluntary environmental initiative that is good for the environment but does not provide a clear competitive or legitimating benefit to the firm itself. Using green electricity (e. g. , wind, solar, small hydro, and biomass) as an example of such an initiative, the study uses qualitative research to investigate the willingness of 20 Canadian businesses to voluntarily adopt green electricity for at least a portion of their total electricity requirements.

Although the corporate ecological responsiveness literature reveals that external factors (e. g. , economic, government, infrastructure), organizational factors (e. g. , industry cohesion), and individual factors (e. g. , leadership, individual interest, manager discretion) can all affect the types of environmental projects that firms will adopt, in the case of green electricity the external factors were the more significant obstacles to it being perceived as a viable means to improve corporate environmental performance. In firms currently using green electricity, these obstacles were largely overcome by the successful efforts of an internal champion motivated primarily by individual values. An important aspect of the champion?s success is her ability to attach her personal interest to a tangible business issue. This task is in turn aided by proactive or sustaining corporate environmental strategies that formalize continual environmental improvement processes and are predisposed to evaluating the success of an initiative on more than its financial or legitimizing contribution to the firm.

Based on these findings, the thesis concludes that the two most important factors associated with the willingness of firms to adopt an initiative that is good for the environment but not necessarily good for the firm are the development of decision-making criteria that extend beyond the bottom-line and the capability of concerned individuals to legitimize the initiative within the firm.

Bibliographical Information:


School:University of Waterloo

School Location:Canada - Ontario

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:environmental studies sustainable development corporate ecological responsiveness green power


Date of Publication:01/01/2005

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