Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

License to Critique: A Communication Perspective on Sustainability Standards

  • Lars Thøger Christensen (a1), Mette Morsing (a1) and Ole Thyssen (a1)
Abstract
ABSTRACT:

Sustainability standards are important governance tools for addressing social and environmental challenges. Yet, such tools are often criticized for being either too open-ended or too restrictive, thereby failing to contribute significantly to the development of sustainable practices. Both dimensions of the critique, however, miss the point. While all standards in principle combine elements of openness and closure, both of which are necessary to keep the sustainability agenda relevant and adaptive, sustainability standards often operate in contexts that favor closure. In this article, we draw on a research tradition that views communication as constitutive of organization to emphasize the significance of communicative mechanisms that stimulate organizational openness in the application of standards. With the notion of “license to critique,” we present a managerial philosophy designed to involve managers and employees, mobilize and develop their knowledge about sustainability and bring it forward for the benefit of both the organization and the environment.

Copyright
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

S. M. Ansari , P. C. Fiss , & E. J Zajac . 2010. Made to fit. How practices vary as they diffuse. Academy of Management Review, 35(1): 6792.

D. Aravind , & P Christmann . 2011. Decoupling of standard implementation from certification: Does quality of ISO 14001 implementation affect facilities’ environmental performance? Business Ethics Quarterly, 21(1): 73102.

C Argyris . 1976. Single-loop and double-loop models in research on decision making. Administrative Science Quarterly, 21(3): 363375.

K. L. Ashcraft , T. R. Kuhn , & F Cooren . 2009. Constitutional amendments: Materiali-zing organizational communication. The Academy of Management Annals, 3(1): 164.

J. L Austin . 1979. Philosophical papers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

M. C. Becker , N. Lazaric , R. R. Nelson , & S. G Winter . 2005. Applying organizational routines in understanding organizational change. Industrial and Corporate Change, 14(5): 775791.

M. Behnam , & T. L MacLean . 2011. Where is the accountability in international accountability standards?: A decoupling perspective. Business Ethics Quarterly, 21(1): 4572.

V. Bitzer , M. Francken , & P Glasbergen . 2008. Intersectoral partnerships for a sustainable coffee chain: Really addressing sustainability or just picking (coffee) cherries? Global Environmental Change, 18(2): 271284.

O Boiral . 2003. ISO 9000: Outside the iron cage. Organization Science, 14(6): 720737.

D. M. Boje , C. Oswick , & J. D Ford . 2004. Language and organization: The doing of discourse. Academy of Management Review, 29(4): 571577.

P. Bromley , & W. W Powell . 2012. From smoke and mirrors to walking the talk: Decoupling in the contemporary world. The Academy of Management Annals, 6(1): 148.

N. Brunsson , A. Rasche , & D Seidl . 2013 The dynamics of standardization: Three perspectives on standards in organization studies. Organization Studies, 33(5–6): 613632.

A. B Carroll . 1979. A three-dimensional conceptual model of corporate performance. Academy of Management Review, 4(4): 497505.

I. Castello , M. Morsing , & F Schultz . 2013. Communicative dynamics and the polyphony of corporate social responsibility in the network society. Journal of Business Ethics, 118: 683694.

A. Chatterji , & D Levine . 2006. Breaking down the wall of codes: Evaluating non-financial performance measurement. California Management Review, 48(2): 2951.

L. T. Christensen , F. Fırat , & S Torp . 2008. The organization of integrated communica-tions: Toward flexible integration. European Journal of Marketing, 42(3/4): 423452.

L. T. Christensen , M. Morsing , & O Thyssen . 2013. CSR as aspirational talk. Organization, 20(3): 372393.

P. Christmann , & G Taylor . 2006. Firm self-regulation through international certifiable standards: Determinants of symbolic versus substantive implementation. Journal of International Business Studies, 37(6): 863878.

F Cooren . 2004. Textual agency: How texts do things in organizational settings. Organization, 11(3): 373393.

F. Cooren , T. Kuhn , J. P. Cornelissen , & T Clarke . 2011. Communication, organizing and organization: An overview and introduction to the special issue. Organization Studies, 32(9): 11491170.

J. Costas , & C Grey . 2014. The temporality of power and the power of temporality: Imaginary future selves in professional service firms. Organization Studies, 35(6): 909937.

A Dahlsrud . 2006. How corporate social responsibility is defined: An analysis of 37 definitions. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 15(1): 113.

F. Déjean , J. P. Gond , & B Leca . 2004. Measuring the unmeasured: An institutional entrepreneur strategy in an emerging industry. Human Relations, 57(6): 741764.

M. A. Delmas , & V. C Burbano . 2011. The drivers of greenwashing. California Management Review, 54(1): 6487.

M. A. Delmas , & M. J Montes-Sancho . 2011. An institutional perspective on the diffusion of international management system standards: The case of the environmental management standard ISO 14001. Business Ethics Quarterly, 21(1): 103132.

S. Du , C. B. Bhattacharaya , & S Sen . 2010. Maximizing business returns to corporate social responsibility (CSR): The role of CSR communication. International Journal of Management Reviews, 12(1): 819.

L. B Edelman . 1992. Legal ambiguity and symbolic structures: Organizational mediation of civil rights law. American Journal of Sociology, 97(06): 15311576.

G. Fairhurst , & L Putnam . 2004. Organizations as discursive constructions. Communication Theory, 14(1): 526.

F. Ferraro , D. Etzion , & J Gehman . 2015. Tackling grand challenges pragmatically: Robust action revisited. Organization Studies, 36(3): 363390.

L. W. Fransen , & A Kolk . 2007. Global rule-setting for business: A critical analysis of multi-stakeholder standards. Organization, 14(5): 667684.

R. Garud , & J Gehman . 2012. Metatheoretical perspectives on sustainability journeys: Evolutionary, relational and durational. Research Policy, 41(6): 980995.

D. U. Gilbert , & A Rasche . 2007. Discourse ethics and social accountability: The ethics of SA 8000. Business Ethics Quarterly, 17(2): 187216.

D. U. Gilbert , A. Rasche , & S Waddock . 2011. Accountability in a global economy: The emergence of international accountability standards. Business Ethics Quarterly, 21(1): 2344.

D. Gioia , R. Nag , & K. G Corley . 2012. Visionary ambiguity and strategic change: The virtue of vagueness in launching major organizational change. Journal of Management Inquiry, 21(4): 364375.

J. González-Benito , & O González-Benito ., 2005. An analysis of the relationship between environmental motivations and ISO14001 certification. British Journal of Management, 16(2): 133148.

D. Grant , T. Keenoy , & C Oswick . (Eds.). 1998. Discourse + organization. London: Sage Publications.

E. Guthey , & M Morsing . 2014. CSR and the mediated emergence of strategic ambiguity. Journal of Business Ethics, 120(4): 555569

P. Haack , D. Schoeneborn , & C Wickert . 2012. Talking the talk, moral entrapment, creeping commitment? Exploring narrative dynamics in corporate responsibility standardization. Organization Studies, 33(5–6): 815845.

P. Haack , & D Schoeneborn . 2014. Is decoupling becoming decoupled from institutional theory? A commentary on Wijen. Academy of Management Review, 40(2): 307313.

A. Hale , & M Opondo . 2005. Humanising the cut flower chain: Confronting the realities of flower production for workers in Kenya. Antipode, 37(2): 301323.

A. A. King , M. J. Lenox , & A Terlaak . 2005. The strategic use of decentralized institutions: Exploring certification with the IOS 14001 management standard. Academy of Management Journal, 48(6): 10911106.

A. Kjærgaard , M. Morsing , & D Ravasi . 2011. Mediating identity: A study of media influence on organizational identity construction in a celebrity firm. Journal of Management Studies, 48(3): 514543.

A. Kjærgaard , & M Morsing . 2010. Strategic auto-communication in identity-image interplay: The dynamics of mediatizing organizational identity. In L. Chouliaraki & M. Morsing (Eds.) Media, organizations, and identity: 93111. London: Macmillan Palgrave.

D-M. Kwon , M-S. Seo , & Y-C Seo . 2002. A study of compliance with environmental regulations of ISO 14001 certified companies in Korea. Journal of Environmental Management, 65(4): 347353.

S. M Livesey . 2002. The discourse of the middle ground. Citizen Shell commits to sustainable development. Management Communication Quarterly, 15(3): 313349.

S. M. Livesey , C. L. Hartman , E. R. Stafford , & M Shearer . 2009. Performing sustainable development through eco-collaboration. The Riceland Habitat Partnership. Journal of Business Communication, 46(4): 423454.

A. Lockett , J. Moon , & W Visser . 2006. Corporate social responsibility in management research: Focus, nature, salience and sources of influence. Journal of Management Studies, 43(1): 115136.

N Luhmann . 2000. Organisation und Entscheidung. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag.

F. Maon , A. Lindgreen , & V Swaen . 2009. Designing and implementing corporate social responsibility: An integrative framework grounded in theory and practice. Journal of Business Ethics, 87(1): 7189.

A. McWilliams , D. S. Siegel , & P. M Wright . 2006. Corporate social responsibility: Strategic implications. Journal of Management Studies, 43(1): 118.

J. E. Morhardt , S. Baird , & K Freeman . 2002. Scoring corporate environmental and sustainability reports using GRI 2000, ISO 14031 and other criteria. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 9(4): 215233.

A Okoye . 2009. Theorizing corporate social responsibility as an essentially contested concept: Is a definition necessary? Journal of Business Ethics, 89(4): 613627.

A Rasche . 2009. Toward a model to compare and analyze accountability standards. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 16(4): 192205.

A Rasche . 2010. The limits of responsibility standards. Business Ethics: A European Review, 19(3): 280291.

A Rasche . 2012. Global policies and local practice: Loose and tight couplings in multi-stakeholder initiatives. Business Ethics Quarterly, 22(4): 679708.

J. Reinecke , S. Manning , & O Von Hagen . 2012. The emergence of a standards market: Multiplicity of sustainability standards in the global coffee industry. Organization Studies, 33(5/6): 789812.

D. A. Schuler , & P Christmann . 2011. The effectiveness of market-based social governance schemes: The case of fair trade coffee. Business Ethics Quarterly, 21(1): 133156.

J. R Searle . 1969. Speech acts: An essay in the philosophy of language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

D Seidl . 2005. General strategy concepts and the ecology of strategy discourses: A systemic-discursive perspective. Organization Studies, 28(2): 197218.

S. P. Sethi , & D. H Schepers . 2014. United Nations Global Compact: The promise-performance gap. Journal of Business Ethics, 122(2): 193208.

T. A. Steelman , & J Rivera . 2006. Voluntary environmental programs in the United States. Whose interests are served? Organization & Environment, 19(4): 505526.

M Strathern . 2000. Audit cultures: Anthropological studies in accountaiblity, ethics and the academy. New York: Routledge.

J. R. Taylor , & F Cooren . 1997. What makes communication ‘organizational’?: How the many voices of a collectivity become the one voice of an organization. Journal of Pragmatics, 27(4): 409438.

A Terlaak . 2007. Order without law? The role of certified management standards in shaping socially desired firm behaviors. Academy of Management Review, 32(3): 968985.

J. A Thackaberry . 2004. Discursive opening and closing in organisational self-study. Culture as trap and tool in wildland firefighting safety. Management Communication Quarterly, 17(3): 319359.

O Thyssen . 2009. Business ethics and organizational values. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

S. Timmermans , & S Epstein . 2010. A world of standards but not a standard world: Toward a sociology of standards and standardization. Annual Review of Sociology, 36: 6989.

G. R. Weaver , L. K. Trevino , & P. L Cochran . 1999. Integrated and decoupled corporate social performance: Management commitments, external pressures, and corporate ethics practices. Academy of Management Journal, 42(5), 539552.

K. E. Weick , K. M. Sutcliffe , & D Obstfeld . 2005. Organizing and the process of sensemaking. Organization Science, 16(4): 409421.

F Wijen . 2014. Means versus ends in opaque institutional fields: Trading off compliance and achievement in sustainability standard adoption. Academy of Management Review, 39(3): 302323.

C Woo . 2010. Implementing the United Nations Global Compact. In A. Rasche & G. Kell (Eds.), The United Nations Global Compact: Achievements: 115143. New York: Cambridge University Press.

S Ybema . 2010. Talk of change: Temporal contrasts and collective identities. Organization Studies, 31(4): 481503.

G. Zeitz , V. Mittal , & B McAuley . 1999. Distinguishing adoption and entrenchment of management practices: A framework for analysis. Organization Studies, 20(5): 741776.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Business Ethics Quarterly
  • ISSN: 1052-150X
  • EISSN: 2153-3326
  • URL: /core/journals/business-ethics-quarterly
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords:

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 2
Total number of PDF views: 74 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 273 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 13th February 2017 - 25th May 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.