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Historical Origins of Environment Sustainability in the German Chemical Industry, 1950s-1980s


  • Geoffrey G. Jones

    () (Harvard Business School, General Management Unit)

  • Christina Lubinski

    () (German Historical Institute)


This working paper examines the growth 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 working paper 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 organizational sociology theories which have identified the importance of visibility in corporate green strategies.

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  • Geoffrey G. Jones & Christina Lubinski, 2013. "Historical Origins of Environment Sustainability in the German Chemical Industry, 1950s-1980s," Harvard Business School Working Papers 14-018, Harvard Business School.
  • Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:14-018

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dore, Ronald, 2000. "Stock Market Capitalism: Welfare Capitalism: Japan and Germany versus the Anglo-Saxons," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199240616.
    2. Dauvergne, Peter, 2013. "Eco-Business: A Big-Brand Takeover of Sustainability," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262018760, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Grebitus, Carola & Steiner, Bodo & Veeman, Michele M., 2016. "Paying for sustainability: A cross-cultural analysis of consumers’ valuations of food and non-food products labeled for carbon and water footprints," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 50-58.

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    environmental strategies; corporate responsibility; sustainability; chemical industry; detergents; Germany;

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