Proceedings of the International Association for Business and Society

Volume 26, 2015

Proceedings of the Twenty-Sixth Annual Meeting

Annie Powell, Johanne Grosvold, Andrew Millington
Pages 192-204

Trying and Failing
Understanding Adoption and Enactment Processes of Organizational Sustainability Commitments through Unintended Decoupling

Organizations that do not implement espoused policies in practice face the risk of societal disapproval if the decoupling is exposed in an era of increased transparency and accountability expectations. While policy-practice decoupling remains an observed organizational outcome, organizations are becoming less inclined to deliberately adopt strategies of decoupling. Our first contribution to theory is an extended conceptual model which integrates both original accounts and recent developments in decoupling theory. Secondly we propose that decoupling is more often an unintended outcome of attempts to tightly couple, than a cynical evasive organizational act. Finally we propose three key conditions under which attempts to implement the policy yield decoupled or tightly coupled organizational outcomes, explicitly incorporating the role of individual agency into the decoupling frame.