Elaborating a Model of Cultural Exchange: An Investigation into the Relationship Between Organizational Cultures and the Adoption of Environmental Certified Management Standards
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In this dissertation, I investigate how organizations understand and apply shared meanings of sustainability. Integrating recent theoretical developments regarding organizational culture with findings from prior literature suggesting that corporate codes can be effective instruments for shaping employee behavior, I describe the flexible exchange of cultural meanings and practices between organizations and their environment with respect to the adoption of environmental certified management standards (ECMS). Taking an inductive, mixed methodological approach, I first use cultural consensus modeling survey techniques to analyze the types of situations vineyard managers in Oregon and Washington categorize as sustainable management conventions and the consistency of these categorizations among those organizations that have adopted ECMS and those organizations that have not. I then draw on interview and archival data to gain deeper insight into the survey findings, focusing on the nature of the relationship between the adoption of ECMS and managerial knowledge around shared meanings and practices regarding sustainability. I find that the adoption of ECMS is associated with an alignment among organizations regarding how they understand and apply sustainability, with three characteristics enhancing the effectiveness of ECMS in cultivating alignment: detailed practice descriptions, demanding objectives to achieve and maintain, and industry specificity. I further uncover that key activities involving the interaction of ECMS and ECMS members facilitate this alignment in cultural meanings and practices surrounding sustainability. From these findings, I develop a grounded conceptual model of cultural exchange, describing how organizations serve varying roles in the cultural exchange process and how each role leverages a set of specific mechanisms to facilitate the adaptation, generation, and transfer of existing and new cultural meanings and practices between organizations drawing on a shared cultural repertoire. The findings from this study contribute to enhancing our theoretical understanding of organizational culture as an open system through a more complex, intentional, and hierarchical account of cultural exchange, as well as develop insight into how the substantive adoption of ECMS practices is associated with alignment among organizations regarding cultural meanings and practices regarding a salient issue in an industry, such as sustainability.