‘Tell Me What You Think And I Will Tell You What You Are’: An Exploratory Study of the Relationship Between Firms’ Environmental Paradigm and Environmental Performance In Argentina’
Diego A Vazquez Brust and Catherine Liston-Heyes, Royal holloway, University of London, United Kingdom
This paper examines whether corporate values towards the environment affect a firm’s environmental performance as perceived by its stakeholders. Indicators of the quality of firm-stakeholder interactions are derived from data obtained from environmental audits of polluting firms performed on behalf of the Argentinean government. Content and discourse analyses of the survey data, corporate reports, and web sites are used to categorise each firm according to the dominant environmental ‘paradigm’ that is most representative of its beliefs and value system. Statistical analyses show, amongst other things that: (i) the extent of compliance with environmental policy and regulations is related to a firm’s dominant environmental paradigm; (ii) in Argentina, concerns for the environment are not present in the set of core values adopted by the typical firm; while firms which adhere to the “sustainability” paradigm perform better than others (iii) stakeholder-sensitive environmental performance indicators differ from purely technical based measures. The paper also discusses methodological issues relating to the study of mindsets and concludes with a number of policy and research implications. The literature on conflicts suggests that individuals operating according to different mindsets are likely to be unable to understand each others’ motives and that this can potentially lead to mistrust and communication breakdown. The inference is that by understanding the paradigms adopted by the firms, policy-makers and international trade organisations should be able to develop, implement, and monitor environmental policy more efficiently. This, the paper argues, is likely to be even more relevant in the design of ‘voluntary’ policy design where the whole hearted participation of the firms is crucial to the success of the initiatives. It also highlights the importance of using performance indicators that are sensitive to stakeholders demand as opposed to those that are focussed on legislative and/or technical imperatives.
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