Date of Award

4-22-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

David B. Yerger, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Susan Boser, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

William R. Donner, Ph.D.

Abstract

This study of the natural gas production industry in the Northeastern United States aims to explain how sustainability pressures from stakeholders and institutional actors are received, interpreted and acted upon by organizations and managers of the natural gas drilling firms. A number of hypotheses are developed from the stakeholder and institutional literature to empirically test the role organizational characteristics, such firm environmental record, public visibility or size, play in either influencing the level of institutional stakeholder pressure placed on these firms or in the type of stakeholder most relevant to them. Furthermore, this study investigates how managerial characteristics, such as values and beliefs with respect to sustainability, act as a conduit between stakeholder pressure placed on the firms and sustainability practices companies engage in. Finally, this research also aims at identifying the main stakeholder group(s) influential in driving eco-efficiency practices in this industry. The research design integrates 30 interviews and 44 survey responses with secondary data sources including company databases, publicly available firm documents and websites, violations data, as well as online newspaper coverage. Findings indicate that publicly reported environmental indiscretions as well as increased public visibility lead companies to more broadly recognize institutional stakeholders. However, company size does not appear to impact the influence regulatory and economic stakeholders have with respect to sustainability. Furthermore, responses of the survey participants point to the importance of managerial values and beliefs in mediating between stakeholder influence and sustainability practices. Finally, eco-efficiency practices in this industry appear to be primarily influenced by internal stakeholders.

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