Stakeholder Power and Organizational Learning in Corporate Environmental Management
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The literatures on stakeholder engagement by companies and organizational learning give little consideration to the power (or influence) of stakeholders to affect the process or content of organizational learning. These literatures generally assume that common ground between companies and their stakeholders can be established as a prerequisite for learning, that learning is a quasi-autonomous process unaffected by the motives or power of stakeholders, and that actors have the power to fulfil roles that are critical in fostering learning. The paper seeks to address these omissions, examining how and why stakeholder power and organizational learning interact, drawing on comparative case studies of the environmental management practices found in two major companies. The evidence from these cases suggests a complex relationship between the ambition of company goals, the structure of learning, and the influence of stakeholders on the process and outcomes of learning. Exploitative learning routines were effective when stakeholder influences converged, whereas explorative learning took place without convergence but the implementation of this learning was hampered. We suggest that this raises important issues for companies that seek to undertake both exploitative and explorative learning and that future studies of organizational learning should take more explicit account of the effects of stakeholder power.