Historical Origins of Environment Sustainability in the German Chemical Industry, 1950s-1980s

48 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2013  

Geoffrey Gareth Jones

Harvard University - General Management Unit

Christina Lubinski

Copenhagen Business School

Date Written: August 26, 2013

Abstract

This working paper examines the growth of corporate environmentalism in the West German chemical industry between the 1950s and the 1980s. It focuses on two companies, Bayer and Henkel and traces the evolution of their environmental strategies in response to growing evidence of pollution and resulting political pressures. Although German business has been regarded as pioneering corporate environmentalism, this study reveals major commonalities between the German and American chemical industries until the 1970s, when the two German firms diverged from their American counterparts in using public relations strategies not only to contain fallout from criticism, but also as opportunities for changes in corporate culture. The working paper finds no evidence for variety of capitalism explanations why German firms should have been early in their sustainability strategies, partly because of the importance of regional as opposed to national influences, but the study is supportive of organizational sociology theories which have identified the importance of visibility in corporate green strategies.

Keywords: environmental strategies, corporate responsibility, sustainability, chemical industry, detergents, Germany

Suggested Citation

Jones, Geoffrey Gareth and Lubinski, Christina, Historical Origins of Environment Sustainability in the German Chemical Industry, 1950s-1980s (August 26, 2013). Harvard Business School General Management Unit Working Paper No. 14-018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2318399 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2318399

Geoffrey Gareth Jones (Contact Author)

Harvard University - General Management Unit ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States

Christina Lubinski

Copenhagen Business School ( email )

Copenhagen Business School
Porcelænshaven 18A
Frederiksberg, DK-2000
Denmark

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