Abstract: Culture of Greenness: Environmental Strategies, Regional Culture, and Social Responsibility in the German Chemical Industry, 1950 to 1980

Christina Lubinski and Geoffrey Jones


This paper examines the evolution of corporate environmentalism in the West German chemical industry between the 1950s and the 1980s. It focuses on two companies, Bayer and Henkel, and traces the evolution of their environmental strategies in response to growing evidence of pollution and resulting political pressures. It identifies major commonalities between the German and American chemical industries before the 1970s, challenging the international political economy literature which has argued that the varieties of capitalism model can explain different propensities to invest in green business. During the 1970s the two German firms did diverge from their American counterparts in using public relations strategies not only to contain fallout from criticism, but also as opportunities for changes in corporate culture. The article identifies regional influences as crucial factors shaping managerial strategies, supporting sociological theories about the importance of visibility in encouraging corporate green strategies.