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Rothenberg, Sandra, and David L. Levy. 1999. "Corporate Responses to Climate Change: The Institutional Dynamics of the Automobile Industry and Climate Change." Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA) Discussion Paper E-99-19. Cambridge, MA: Environment and Natural Resources Program, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Full text: PDF version (Download free Adobe Acrobat Reader)


Although there has been some growing recognition of the role of private actors in international environmental regimes, little attention has been paid to the role of the private sector at the science-policy interface. Because the automobile industry plays a crucial role in mitigation of greenhouse gases, successful policy requires not just the assent but the active cooperation of this sector. Such cooperation, however, requires some institutional acceptance that climate change is indeed a significant risk. The work of the GEA program and others suggests that formal assessments do not simply land on the desks of policy makers and drive policy; rather, a complex social and political process mediates science and policy. In a similar way, the private sector is not a simple consumer of formal assessments. In this paper, we outline the role of institutional pressures in the development of corporate perspectives of climate change.  Although institutional theory generally predicts convergence, or isomorphism, among organizational actors, theoretical arguments will be developed here to account for both homogeneous and heterogeneous corporate perceptions of and responses to climate change science.  We focus on two factors, multiple competitive discourses within institutional fields and the transformation of institutional pressures through organizational boundaries and lenses, to explain industry responses to climate science and scientific assessments. We then explore these theoretical arguments through the case of the response of the US automobile to the climate change issue.

Subsequent History

· Revised version published as a book chapter in Organizations, Policy and the Natural Environment: Institutional and Strategic Perspectives (Full Text)
New Citation: Levy, David L., and Sandra Rothenberg. 2002. "Heterogeneity and Change in Environmental Strategy: Technological and Political Responses to Climate Change in the Automobile Industry." Chapter 7 in Organizations, Policy and the Natural Environment: Institutional and Strategic Perspectives, edited by Andrew Hoffman and Marc Ventresca. Stanford: Stanford University Press.


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