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2.2.2 Paradigms and Discourses in Organizations

Moving to the organizational level, paradigms exist that include the collective values and beliefs of organizational members which influence how issues are interpreted and acted upon (Andersson and Bateman 2000). Some organizations reflect the DSP. However, increasingly organizational paradigms are changing. Management practices such as recycling and waste management, incorporating environmental criteria onto the balance sheet, and recognizing the environment as a source of competitive advantage convey a moderately strong pro-environmental paradigm. In those organizations with a strong pro-environmental paradigm, there are strong pro-environmental attitudes among top management, rewards for environmental performance, support for sustainability-oriented innovation, and the initiation of and involvement in environmental partnerships. These qualities were evident in the Neil Kelly Company.

The Neil Kelly Company and the Emerging Paradigm As we drove along the Columbia River toward Portland, I reached out to Andy Giegerich, editor of Sustainable Business Oregon, a publication of the Portland Business Journal, asking for suggestions as to whom I should interview. He recommended Tom Kelly, President of the Neil Kelly Company, a family-owned business with locations in Portland, Lake Oswego, Bend, Eugene, and Seattle. Neil Kelly is the largest residential contractor in Oregon with approximately 170 employees. The company provides remodeling and energy services and handymen and builds custom homes. Like all contractors, Tom's company was challenged by the Great Recession of 2009. Tom admitted, “When you are really challenged financially it is hard to apply some of your values in a way that you would like.” However, their core focus on sustainability survived.

One afternoon, I sat down with Tom and Julia Spence, Vice President of Human Resources. Under Tom's leadership, their South Portland showroom became the first LEED-certified commercial building on the West Coast and the fourth in the county. Tom's mountain home was the first LEED-certified single-family home on the West Coast. Active in fundraising, he helped raise money for a LEED-certified sleeping village (kid's camp), LEED-certified Catholic grade school, and LEED Platinum-certified grade school. He has worked on several green Habitat for Humanity houses and is on the board of a nonprofit purveyor of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood called Sustainable Northwest Wood. “So a lot of the stuff we do in the community ends up reflecting our values,” Tom said. Forests receive FSC certification after documenting that they utilize environmentally appropriate forest management techniques, reward and encourage local people to sustain the forest resources, and do not generate financial profit at the expense of the forest resource, the ecosystem, or communities.

Early on, as company president, Tom was trying to find a way to implement his values regarding sustainability and the environment into his business. When he was invited to a half-day training by Natural Step, he went. Although impressed, he wouldn't adopt it unless his management team agreed. All of the management team attended the next training, the approach resonated with them, and they became a Natural Step company. Best Practice: If you learn of training about sustainability, investigate it. If you like what you see, invite others to attend.

What is Natural Step? Developed in the late 1980s by Dr. Karl-Henrik Robe`rt, a

Swedish doctor and cancer scientist, Natural Step provides advisory services, certificate courses, and e-learning globally to organizations interested in becoming more sustainable. The approach articulates four system conditions. In a sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth's crust, increasing concentrations of substances produced by society, or degradation by physical means; and people are not subject to conditions that systemically undermine their capacity to meet their needs. Their five operational strategies involve fostering sustainability-focused mindsets, providing advisory services, launching or participating in system change initiatives, incubating and spreading innovations and new ventures, and building a movement.

Reflecting on his experience with Natural Step, Tom said:

Certainly, it was a key juncture in how I look at business and how it can influence the community, my customers, and my employees in a way that stands by my environmental values. That is when we really started taking initiatives.. .. We have worked really hard to implement sustainability as a core-company value... So that is pretty good for waking up in the morning and saying 'I am making a business but I am also making a triple bottom-line difference, I am also making a contribution to society'.. .. The words for me that are important in the scheme of what sustainability is are balance, fairness, and justice, but most importantly keeping nature in balance because if we don't keep nature in balance we will all be done. That is what it comes down to. I believe that. I think what is going on now is just the edges of where we will land with global warming.

So now we have read about paradigms and how the DSP is shifting to include elements of the NEP. That transition occurred as the major Discourses of our culture expanded. In the next section, we focus on the broader sociopolitical Discourses surrounding the human–environment interface.

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