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Socializing the C-suite: why some big-box retailers are “greener” than others

  • Hamish van der Ven
Abstract

Despite a considerable push by policy-makers to incentivize green business practices, take-up of environmental initiatives amongst North American retailers has been highly uneven. While some “big-box” retailers have launched ambitious environmental initiatives, others continue to conduct business as usual. This paper asks: why do some mega-retailers commit to ambitious environmental agendas while others in the same sector do not? And how can the answer to this question improve public policy? I investigate these questions using comparative case studies of four North American big-box retailers: Wal-Mart, Target, Costco and Kroger. My findings suggest that the socialization of senior executives through multi-stakeholder sustainability networks is the critical variable accounting for progressive environmental practices in some corporations and not others. This finding suggests that existing public policies that focus on making the business case for sustainability are based on incomplete assumptions about why companies “go green.” It further suggests that socialization theory can help explain broader instances of corporate social responsibility and proposes that scholars in this field should devote more attention to the composition of socializing groups.

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Corresponding author
* University of Toronto, Political Science, Sidney Smith Hall, Room 3018, 100 St. George Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5S 3G3, Tel.: 647-965-2860, e-mail: hamish.vanderven@utoronto.ca
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