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Inside greening: The role of middle managers' strategic processes, attitudes, and behaviors in corporate environmentalism

Terry B Porter, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Interest in corporate environmentalism has exploded in recent years from a minor concern to a serious endeavor. Most firms today devote an average of 1-2% of revenues to environmental matters. Recent research has shown that an upstream, proactive approach to environmental strategy can lead to win-win outcomes and improved environmental and financial performance. Much has been learned about how top managers develop and promote proactive ecostrategies, and the details of employee contributions are also becoming clear. However, middle managers' contributions to realized ecostrategy are largely unexplored, as are multilevel aspects of environmental strategy making. Drawing from literatures of strategic processes, organizational behavior, and environmentalism, the dissertation hypothesized that attitudes, behaviors, communication style, and identity orientation of middle managers is associated with the promotion of environmental initiatives by subordinates. A quantitative case study tested the hypotheses. Three companies in the retail grocery business participated in the study, and survey data was collected from 584 managers at three organizational levels. The final sample consisted of 406 managers, and hierarchical linear regression was used to analyze the data. Results show that middle managers' activities and attitudes are indeed related significantly to emergent environmental initiatives in the organizations studied. Thus, middle managers are critical, central players in achieving environmental performance improvements. In addition, specific patterns of middle manager involvement varied significantly by company, and there were indications that these patterns were related to organizational culture. Other results include the development and validation of an expanded measure of environmental initiative development that, for the first time, delineates a multiphasic process and proves useful in understanding the nuanced nature of proactive ecostrategy making. Similarly, the dissertation combined and retested previous findings from organizational behavior, strategic, and relational models of organizational environmentalism, thereby permitting comparison of the relative influence of different factors for the first time. Finally, this study represents the first use of multilevel quantitative analysis, specifically multilevel regression and hierarchical linear modeling, in the study of environmentalism in organizations. These results reinforce the value of mesolevel studies of environmentalism by providing depth and nuance that is inaccessible in organization-level quantitative studies or qualitative case studies.

Subject Area

Management|Environmental science

Recommended Citation

Porter, Terry B, "Inside greening: The role of middle managers' strategic processes, attitudes, and behaviors in corporate environmentalism" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3215761.