Making "Green Giants": Environment Sustainability in the German Chemical Industry, 1950s–1980s

Geoffrey Jones, Christina Lubinski

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

This article examines the evolution 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 article 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 organisational sociology theory about the importance of visibility in corporate green strategies.
This article examines the evolution 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 article 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 organisational sociology theory about the importance of visibility in corporate green strategies.
LanguageEnglish
JournalBusiness History
Volume56
Issue number4
Pages623-649
Number of pages27
ISSN0007-6791
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2014

Keywords

    Cite this

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    abstract = "This article examines the evolution 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 article 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 organisational sociology theory about the importance of visibility in corporate green strategies.",
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    Making "Green Giants" : Environment Sustainability in the German Chemical Industry, 1950s–1980s. / Jones, Geoffrey; Lubinski, Christina.

    In: Business History, Vol. 56, No. 4, 07.2014, p. 623-649.

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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