Will firms go green if it pays? The impact of disruption, cost, and external factors on the adoption of environmental initiatives

Glen W.S. Dowell, Suresh Muthulingam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Research summary: Research on the link between financial and environmental performance implicitly assumes that firms will pursue profitable environmental actions. Yet, clearly, factors beyond profitability influence firms' environmental choices. We treat these choices as organizational change decisions and hypothesize that adoption of environmental initiatives is influenced by a combination of profit, level of disruption caused, and external influences. We test our hypotheses by examining firms' choices regarding implementation of energy-savings initiatives. We find that degree of disruption, number of prior local adopters, and strength of environmental norms affect the adoption decisions. In addition, the effect of disruption is amplified by the implementation costs, but is mitigated by the number of prior local adopters. Managerial summary: Often, in trying to improve firms' environmental performance, academics and stakeholders have focused on actions that simultaneously improve environmental and financial performance. This assumes that firms will undertake projects that offer such dual benefits. We consider what might prevent firms from pursuing such ‘win-win’ initiatives. We focus on how the degree of disruption of an energy-saving initiative affects its probability of adoption. We find that firms are significantly more likely to adopt moderately profitable, but easy initiatives than more profitable but disruptive ones. We also examine internal and external factors that moderate the effect of disruption. Our findings suggest that in order to incentivize firms to improve environmental performance, it might be more beneficial make these activities less disruptive than to make them more profitable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1287-1304
Number of pages18
JournalStrategic Management Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management


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