Green Management Matters for AOM Operations
Mark Starik and Gordon Rands
The Academy of Management, like most organizations, both relies upon and influences natural environments on an on-going basis. A number of academic theories and professional practices have been suggested regarding the interaction of such organizations with their natural environments.
One of these perspectives, the Ecologically Sustainable Organization (ESO) framework (Starik & Rands, 1995), has been forwarded as a way to perceive these multiple interactions, and to do so while making decisions and taking actions related to the multiple levels of human organizations and their natural environments, as well as to the multiple systems elements that exist on each of these levels.
This symposium identified some of the relevant theories and practices related to organizations, such as the Academy of Management, in interacting with other ESO-related entities at these multiple levels and involving these multiple systems elements. The purpose of considering such a framework was to encourage the development and effective use of organization-environment theories and practices, hopefully resulting in a better understanding of ecologically sustainable organizations and in the advancement of these entities, which, over time, may include the Academy of Management.
After introducing the session, Mark Starik, of George Washington University, discussed the importance of organizational sustainability to society and of ESOs generally, provided a brief overview of the ESO framework, and connected the ESO concept to various management theories and to interactions at the organizational level of analysis. He promoted the idea that Academy members and their colleagues should consider expanding this theory-connecting effort and developing additional theories of sustainability management, and examining their own practices to identify opportunities for advancing sustainability on an on-going basis, including through the use of video-conferencing and other “social media.
Next, Gordon Rands, of Western Illinois University, reviewed AOM’s environmental impacts, discussed what had been done to address those impacts before and during the conference, reviewed what could be attempted for future conferences, and identified the day-to-day operational activities that had been and could be modified to better align AOM with ecosystem realities. He briefly reviewed the 68 recommendations for greening the meeting made by an international subcommittee of the Local Arrangements Committee. Of the 31 suggestions that could be implemented by AOM itself, 24 were adopted in whole or in part. These actions included providing information, encouragement and a link through which meeting attendees could offset the carbon emissions associated with their conference travel. The 19 suggestions for green improvements by exhibitors were forwarded to them by AOM staff, and 4 of the 18 recommendations for action by hotels were requested and implemented to at least some degree. In addition, several other green initiatives were initiated and implemented by the LAC or AOM staff. In short, the Academy made a very good start on greening, but truly sustainable conferences are still a ways off, and will require continued action by AOM staff, exhibitors, hotels, and perhaps most importantly, Academy members.
Tom Cummings, of the University of Southern California, addressed the individual level of sustainable organizations, identifying three successive approaches to institutionalizing sustainability into Academy activities, especially its governance mechanisms, so as to more fully engage Academy members. These included continuing to incrementally green Academy functions, changing the Academy by-laws to facilitate taking a more proactive stance toward (such as making environmental requirements of- suppliers), and re-orienting the Academy’s strategic direction so as to institutionalize sustainability structures and practices.
Sandra Waddock, of Boston College, focused at the political-economic level of organizational sustainability, advancing the argument that the Academy should attempt to identify connections between management practice and socially-relevant ideas such as environmental sustainability and social justice, as well as to influence public policy to make a positive difference in the world. She suggested that the Academy should support structural changes in business academia practices, such as tenure processes, that currently discourage asking and debating big questions and encourage incremental empirical research of questionable societal relevance. She argued for the Academy taking a stand on major sustainability issues, such as climate change, ethics scandals, and the economic crisis.
Finally, Paul Shrivastava, of Concordia University, (substituting for Jim Post of Boston University who was simultaneously scheduled for another All Academy symposium) highlighted the socio-cultural level of organizational sustainability. Paul presented data demonstrating the increase in the sustainability footprint of its members associated with travel to Academy meetings and the printing and distribution of the Academy journals. In addition, he suggested that the Academy promote sustainability literacy, engage accrediting associations, and direct its efforts toward fostering inter-disciplinary, holistic thinking.
All told, the symposium panel members’ presentations suggested that the Academy is not yet close to being an Ecologically Sustainable Organization, but that both the actions taken by many of its stakeholders to move in that direction, and the opportunities for the Academy to take further incremental and transformative steps in the future to become an ESO were plentiful, achievable, and imperative.
Starik, M. and G. Rands (1995) “Weaving an integrated web: Multilevel and multisystem perspectives of ecologically sustainable organizations,” Academy of Management Review, 20(4), 908-935.