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Activating Corporate Environmental Ethics on the Frontline: A Natural Resource-Based View

Abstract

Corporate environmental ethics has moved from a niche issue within business strategy to a potential source of competitive advantage. Firms, however, are comprised of individuals who vary in their personal beliefs regarding environmental responsibility. Environmental stewards are those employees whose attitudes and actions reflect environmental concern. Top management can convey similar environmental values through the creation of eco-capabilities. Applying logic from the natural resource-based view of the firm, we build a model to test how the alignment of environmental values impacts multiple outcomes. We conduct a time-lagged examination using multi-level data from frontline employees, their managers, and their customers. We find that firms can ‘activate’ their corporate environmental ethics through eco-capabilities. Specifically, environmental stewards find more meaning in their work when managers perceive high levels of eco-capabilities within the firm. This meaningful work increases employee brand advocacy and customer satisfaction. Together, we demonstrate how corporate environmental ethics translates to the frontline and the customers they serve.

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Notes

  1. We adhere to the literature that differentiates corporate environmental ethics from corporate environmentalism- i.e., “the organization-wide recognition of the legitimacy and importance of the biophysical environment in the formulation of organization strategy, and the integration of environmental issues into the strategic planning process” (Banerjee, 2002, p. 181). Both concepts are value-based, but the key difference is the normative component of corporate environmental ethics.

  2. We would like to thank an anonymous reviewer for this insight.

  3. We would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for this insight and potential research direction.

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Appendix

Appendix

Construct and items Loading
Environmental stewardship  
I feel sense of ownership for the environment impact of our work 0.88
In addressing customer problems, I attempt to come up with solutions that are best for the environment 0.96
I believe that I need to play a role in the development of environmentally sustainable business 0.94
I help customers to maintain a green environment for future generations*  
Work meaningfulness  
My spirit is energized by work 0.78
Work is connected to what I think is important in life 0.83
I look forward to coming to work 0.76
I see a connection between my work and social good*  
Eco-capability: business resources  
We have a formal, long-term plan for environmental initiatives 0.98
We actively research the best environmental practices at other firms in our industry 0.97
Redesigning processes or products to be more environmentally friendly has become a key part of our business plan 0.93
Eco-capability: human resources  
My company’s top management fully supports our environmental initiatives 0.81
There is a lot of written and oral communication in my company regarding environmental programs 0.89
Our people generally embrace our environmental programs 0.91
Eco-capability: technology resources  
My company has implemented technology that…  
…assesses the performance of our environmental initiatives 0.89
…helps with energy management (e.g., lights, climate control) 0.84
…helps manage inventory in an environmentally conscious way 0.83
Employee brand advocacy  
I talk up my (company brand) to people I know 0.88
In social situations, I often speak favorably about the (company brand) I work for 0.75
I bring up my company in a positive way in conversations I have*  
Customer satisfaction  
I have an extremely effective working relationship with this rep 0.91
The time and effort spent with this rep is worthwhile 0.75
Customer trust  
This rep never tries to mislead me 0.81
This rep is always honest in his/her dealings with me 0.79
Job satisfaction  
Generally speaking, I am very satisfied with my job
  1. *Items were dropped

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Gabler, C.B., Itani, O.S. & Agnihotri, R. Activating Corporate Environmental Ethics on the Frontline: A Natural Resource-Based View. J Bus Ethics (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-022-05201-2

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Keywords

  • Environmental stewardship
  • Work meaningfulness
  • Eco-capabilities
  • Employee brand advocacy
  • Customer satisfaction