Skip to main content

Please enter a keyword and click the arrow to search the site

A model of organizational symbolism: understanding the different shades of green


Academy of Management Proceedings


Strategy and Entrepreneurship

Authors / Editors

Durand R;Hawn O;Ioannou I



Publication Year



Despite growing institutional pressures for greater transparency, accountability and sustainability in socio-environmental terms, a number of organizations respond to stakeholder demands and expectations in a symbolic way. We develop a richer conceptual understanding of how, when, and why organizations pursue this strategy. Specifically, we characterize the behavioral antecedents and the resulting heterogeneity in organizational symbolism. We use the context of “greenwashing” - an often monolithically perceived, yet fundamentally strategic and complex organizational phenomenon. Drawing on the concepts of conformity and compliance, symbolic and substantive actions, our model considers this heterogeneity (i.e., the “different shades of green”) based on the materiality of the issue and organizational costs and benefits of resource mobilization (or acquisition) to respond to the issue. More specifically, we suggest a model whereby firms decide whether and in what way to decouple their response to a specific issue based on its materiality, and a calculus of the costs and benefits associated with the use of organizational resources and capabilities versus the costs of inaction. We extend the basic model by considering the moderating role of institutional pressures and organizational characteristics. We offer several propositions for future research to unpack organizational symbolism, its various degrees and antecedents

Available on ECCH


Select up to 4 programmes to compare

Select one more to compare
subscribe_image_desktop 5949B9BFE33243D782D1C7A17E3345D0

Sign up to receive our latest news and business thinking direct to your inbox


Sign up to receive our latest course information and business thinking

Leave your details above if you would like to receive emails containing the latest thought leadership, invitations to events and news about courses that could enhance your career. If you would prefer not to receive our emails, you can still access the case study by clicking the button below. You can opt-out of receiving our emails at any time by visiting: or by unsubscribing through the link provided in our emails. View our Privacy Policy for more information on your rights.