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3.2.2 Changing the Normative Environment

Organizations engage in normative discourse (e.g., education, lobbying, and public affairs) to shape societies' perceptions of which behaviors are legitimate (Ihlen 2009). Normative discourse occurs when institutions make claims about how socially valued issues or things should be, how to value them, which things are good or bad, and which actions are right or wrong. Industry lobbying during an environmental or human rights crisis is an archetypical legitimation-seeking strategy. But industry lobbying can be used to proactively benefit human and environmental conditions. Tom Kelly, President of Neil Kelly Company, Portland, OR, described how his desire to see some pro-environmental lobbying going on in the Oregon legislature led him to enlist others in the business community and they started the Oregon Business Association (OBA). “The association's values are centered on a good community period: good environment, good school funding, good transportation system. The OBA is now the most powerful business lobby in Oregon,” Tom said. When the societal-level moral discourses are changing, organizations often band together to shape the normative discourse. For example the WBCSD was formed to be a voice for business on sustainability issues, to provide research on emerging outlooks and future prospects to develop global sustainability scenarios, and to help companies learn how to successfully frame environmental issues. Similarly, the Green Sports Alliance is working with the NRDC to change the normative discourse in the USA.

3.2.3 Creating New Standards

When organizations lack established models or standards, they will seek to formalize new activities by developing new structures and procedures. We saw this when the USGBC developed the LEED standards. Another example involves when Walmart sponsored the creation of The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) in 2008. The TSC is a group of academics and others charged with establishing scientific standards for measuring the sustainability of consumer products. Walmart realized their greatest environmental impact would not occur through modifying their internal operations but rather from working with their supply chain to influence resource use on a global scale. Makower (2009) quoted Dr. Jay S. Golden, from the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University, as saying:

The idea of quantifying the sustainability of products arose.. .. It became very clear to us that no one researcher, no one institution, could do that because you're dealing with geographies around the world and with various sciences—physical, life, and engineering—and that required a multidisciplinary approach. So we outlined a proposal to Walmart to develop a consortium of academic researchers from institutions to think through the process and try to bring it to life based on the best available sound science and engineering principles available.

The group's activities concentrate on conducting foundational research. “We're trying to put the right science, the right data, and the right metrics in there, and then place the data into an open-source system for all to use,” Golden was quoted as saying. As TSC continues to do their research and work with Walmart and its suppliers, the discussions which occur within a variety of institutional fields are likely to shift dramatically. The promise this process holds is what led Scientific American magazine to identify TSC as among the top ten World Changing Ideas of 2012. Brian Sheehan, former Sustainability Manager at Sam's Club, thinks the group is having an important impact:

For a long time Walmart was talking about the goal of creating this tool that buyers and suppliers could use to understand what the true performance of their products and categories are. There are just so many claims that have been made that it's tough for any one buyer to fully comprehend or vet. Of course to vet every single claim was not possible nor would it be efficient to do. So partnering with TSC, helping to support the creation of that group, actively supporting the growth of the tools that TSC is creating and contributing to the knowledge base, being an active member in that network and also pulling in new members. I think that is just one example of how Walmart is contributing to putting more products on shelves that are more sustainable.

In 2015, TSC had over 90 members employing over 8.5 million people with combined revenues totaling over $2.4 trillion. Today, TSC works to develop methodologies, tools, and strategies to help drive producers and supply networks to address environmental, social, and economic imperatives. Their knowledge products include a category sustainability profile which is a summary of the “best available, credible and actionable knowledge about the sustainability aspects related to a product over its entire life” (The Sustainability Consortium 2013). Working groups provide key performance indicators (KPIs) which are “questions that retailers can use to assess and track the performance of brand manufacturers on critical sustainability issues.” Through their KPIs, TSC provide a list of the issues buyers and suppliers should discuss when seeking to make informed sustainabilityfocused decisions. KPI questions are developed in collaboration with multiple stakeholder groups (i.e., companies, academics, civil-society organizations, and government agencies). “I think it is safe to say that a company that is engaged in the process and is sponsoring research that explores lifecycles that are relevant to that company—they are probably in a better position to learn from the process,” Dr. Jon Johnson, from the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, was quoted as saying (Makower 2009).

However, developing KPIs can involve conflict. Kevin Igli, Senior Vice Presi-

dent and Chief Environmental Health and Safety Officer at Tyson Foods, Inc., described what occurred when the KPIs for beef were developed:

[TSC] came under fire from the National Cattleman's Beef Association (NCBA) because they did not like what they [TSC] had done. And the reason is that they [TSC] did not engage them [NCBA]. In fact, they put out KPIs on beef and they had never set foot in a cow-calf operation or any of the parts of the beef supply chain. They just took a table top academic approach and they came out with these KPIs and the NCBA did not like that. The whole beef industry did not like that. So the good news is TSC said, 'OK we've got work to do.' They went out to these places and they engaged more and now they are coming back around to update the KPIs, but they are not done yet. The process of developing KPI's for chicken went more smoothly. I, and many others, went to TSC and they worked with us. I said 'Listen, you have got to survey all of the top poultry science universities in the

U.S. You need to go to the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association and the National Chicken Council, go to the Sierra Club, go to all these other groups, survey them and get as much rich information as you can from everybody'. And they did. We are in a much better starting place on poultry than we were on beef because we learned some valuable lessons and that is what this is all about.

Kevin's example points to the importance of communication as TSC develops KPIs designed to guide future discussions around products.

 
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