Environmental sustainability and family businesses
Permanent link to Research Commons versionhttps://hdl.handle.net/10289/14680
For centuries, individuals, businesses, and countries have attempted to preserve nature, yet despite their efforts, environmental issues persist. Family businesses (FBs) are a key player in the global economy, and cumulatively, their impact on environmental sustainability (ES) is significant. FBs also provide a unique organisational context to study the influence of family, founding owners, and the next generation in relation to ES in family firms. This is a thesis with publications positioned at the intersection of ES and the family business (FB). The research adopts a two-phase design. The first phase addresses the research question: How and why do family firms vary in their engagement with ES? The second phase considers how family firms can continue an environmental values legacy. The thesis includes three research papers. Manuscript 1 presents a structured literature review (135 research papers published during the last 20 years) that evaluates the body of knowledge at the intersection of ES and FBs. Manuscript 2 reports on the results from a qualitative content analysis of information on ES and family narratives disclosed in the corporate websites of 72 FBs. Manuscript 3 is based on two qualitative methods - a qualitative content analysis and multiple case studies regarding the socialisation context of the founding and the next generation family members. The context for the empirical studies is family businesses operating in New Zealand’s wine industry. Most of the firms in the industry are owned and operated by small to medium-sized FBs. The theory of family logic and familiness was applied in the first two manuscripts, while the theory of multi-layered socialisation was used in the third manuscript. The three manuscripts complement each other. Manuscript 1 uses the extant literature to show how family logics (e.g., socioemotional wealth) and family resources (e.g., social capital) influence ES in family firms. Manuscript 2 empirically investigates the above association and identifies family values, founding values, and nonfinancial goals of the family as dominant family logics that could influence FB engagement with ES. Manuscript 3 develops this idea further and explores how families develop an ongoing environmental values legacy in FBs. The results show that the family itself is the primary source of heterogeneities among FBs in their approach to ES. Family logics and familiness act as a frame of reference for the dominant coalition in their behaviour towards ES. A conceptual model was developed that linked the variables (family logic, familiness, family firms, and ES) and provided a holistic view of how and why heterogeneities exist in family firms. Three typologies of family firms were developed: Family-First, Business-First, and Upstart. Regarding environmental values formation and transmission in FBs, it was found that early childhood is the most critical age of developing environmental values. Early childhood exposure to FB and nature interaction has also been identified as part of the primary socialisation. Three categories of environmental values were developed related to economic, social, and emotional needs that the founding or the next generation family members attempted to satisfy through engagement with ES. There is evidence for resocialisation of values, and a dyadic transmission of environmental values exist between parents and children. Implications of the multi-layered socialisation process are discussed. The first contribution of this thesis is to theoretically and empirically review the “family behind the family firm” to explain how variations in the family variables influence heterogeneities among family firms in their approach to ES. The second contribution of this thesis is to develop the existing knowledge in the intersection of family business and ES, regarding the continuity of environmental values in FBs. At the conclusion of the thesis, the original contributions of the thesis are highlighted. Limitations of the research and future research directions are also outlined.
The University of Waikato
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