Tokenism Pro-activism - the difference between extreme pro-activism and proactive green-washing
Monica Macquet, Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden
When did you hear about pro-activity latest? Probably today, or yesterday. There are so many companies proclaiming there proactive stance towards sustainability, that we are drowning in the flow of hopeful statements. At least some companies have really made great efforts striving for sustainability. But if so many companies are proactive, why are the environmental problems increasing? Why do NGOs such as Green Peace still exist? Is it only due to de-coupling (Brunsson, 1989) or is there something else behind this phenomenon?

This paper will revise the environmental strategies of companies where companies are assumed to go through different stages of adaptations, from denial to pro-activity. (e.g. Handfield et. al., 1997; Porter and van der Linde, 1995; Guntram and Winsemius, 1992) Thereafter I will give empirical examples of companies that would be defined as proactive, but has been criticised for their activities. The companies called proactive are supposed to get engage in partnerships, which can lead to the vice-versa reasoning that companies that engage in partnerships are proactive, and should be let alone from governments and NGO, or for that matter be assumed as better partners than other companies.

The proactive approaches will then be divided into several categories of pro-activity; Moderately Pro-active, Modernization (Söderbaum, 2002) Pro-active, Extreme Pro-activity, and finally “Tokenism- Pro-activism”, also called green-washing.

The concluding discussion will be about companies following several strategies at the same time. (Hertz and Alfredsson, 2002) Instead of the institutional concept of de-coupling, the phenomenon is rather due to human constellations, and the environmental entrepreneurs (Drumwright, 1994).

As a final remark it is necessary to point out that there are no sustainable companies today no matter how proactive, since one company is dependent on activities in other companies, (Håkansson and Snehota, 1995) and we have not yet seen any sustainable supply-chains?

View Full Paper in PDF FORMAT