The Drivers for Divergence: Exploring Variation in New Zealand Organisational Responses to Climate Change
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
For many years, the development of an Emissions Trading Scheme to mitigate against climate change has been one of the most controversial political issues in New Zealand, particularly since the obligation for emission reduction is placed on some of New Zealand‘s most productive organisations. This thesis explores the variation in corporate responses to climate change and searches for the underlying drivers which motivate and/or inhibit action. A sample of organisations obligated to reduce emissions under the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme was selected, and interviews were conducted with senior managers with designated responsibility for the issue. A narrative analysis of interview transcripts was used as the methodology. The Bansal and Roth (2000) Model of Corporate Ecological Responsiveness was selected as a framework to consider the motivating logics (including competitiveness, legitimacy, and social responsibility) emerging from the narratives, and insights from other theoretical models applied. In some cases, the findings were explained in ways anticipated by the literature. But in other cases, the results diverged from expected outcomes. Competitiveness was the most commonly attributed motivation influencing corporate responses to climate change, followed by legitimation seeking and, least frequently, social responsibility. However, it was clear that most responses, and actions, were informed by mixed motives, rendering the Bansal and Roth model insufficient for capturing the complexity of organisational motivations underlying their responses to environmental issues. Factors of influence, particularly issue salience of consumers, played an important role in determining similarities and divergence of response to climate change issues. Where there were synergies between the factors, it encouraged proactive organisational actions. The results showed a range in managerial attitudes and organisational responses to climate change, in relation to risks and opportunities. Some results suggested that organisations respond in similar ways to climate change based on a convergence of institutional pressures, whereas in other cases organisations seemed to be driven to seek a competitive advantage in being as different as legitimately possible, leading to a divergence in responses. This research revealed that political and market uncertainties were seen as a barrier to corporate response. Where synergies existed between economic, institutional and market forces, it was attractive for firms to innovate and differentiate. Overall, the insights gained from this study may provide a greater understanding of the concerns of the business community towards climate change and what conditions will be most conductive to encouraging corporate climate change action.