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Business appreciation of global atmospheric change : the United Kingdom refrigeration industry.

Drake, Frances and PurvIs, Martin and Hunt, Jane (2001) Business appreciation of global atmospheric change : the United Kingdom refrigeration industry. Public Understanding of Science, 10 (2). pp. 187-211. ISSN 1361-6609

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Abstract

From the perspective of an external observer there appears to be good reason for business managers in industries affected by global atmospheric change to engage with the science that underpins the issues of stratospheric ozone depletion and global warming. In part, this reflects the potential competitive advantages that follow from keeping abreast of emergent environmental concerns that might require change in an industry's products or processes. Scientific understanding has long been seen as positively linked to economic performance. Increasingly, however, more specific environmental knowledge is argued to make good business sense. Indeed, the Ecological Modernization Theory presents the environmental challenge facing business as a major stimulus to innovation and future profitability. There are now many case studies - frequently involving large corporations - and extensive surveys that claim to provide evidence of a strengthening and mutually beneficial partnership between economic and environmental interests. Yet there are far fewer studies that offer a detailed exploration of the ways in which individual business managers and decision-makers view the environment. And we know little about the role that science and scientific uncertainty play in business life and the assessment of environmental issues. This paper is part of a growing effort to create a more empirically grounded understanding of business and the environment. It draws upon semi-structured interviews with managers in the United Kingdom refrigeration industry, a sector particularly affected in recent years by concerns about global atmospheric change. An initial reflection upon the impact that ozone depletion and global warming have had on the refrigeration industry is followed by consideration of interviewees' understanding of emergent environmental concerns and the role that science has played in informing their opinions. This reveals that neither science nor the environment per se play a central role in business planning. Where scientific arguments or environmental evidence are used they are often only selectively quoted in ways that bolster established commercial needs. The way in which science is used may explain the apparent lack of any impulse towards ecological modernization in the sectors of the refrigeration industry explored here. It is also evident, however, that companies' relationships with customers and suppliers also shape a somewhat passive response to environmental and technical challenges. By contrast, environmental legislation appears to be a major motivating force. Legislation not only enforces, but also legitimates, attention to specific environmental issues. At the same time, however, this regulatory certainty forecloses scientific discussion. Where clear legislation does not exist - as is the case with global warming - interviewees saw its introduction as a more effective route to reducing uncertainty than any societal investment in scientific research or environmental action. While legislation has established standards that promote specific instances of environmental good practice, there is little evidence of the creation of any wider momentum for organizational change. Thus, additional industrial response to environmental concerns may require continued extension and refinement of the regulatory framework.

Item Type: Article
Journal or Publication Title: Public Understanding of Science
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Departments: Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences > Sociology
ID Code: 13879
Deposited By: Mr Richard Ingham
Deposited On: 06 Oct 2008 10:59
Refereed?: Yes
Published?: Published
Last Modified: 09 Apr 2014 20:21
Identification Number:
URI: http://eprints.lancs.ac.uk/id/eprint/13879

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