The continuity and profitability of business firms are under constant threat from environmental issues - forthcoming developments in the environmental domain or involving environmental stakeholders that are likely to have an important impact on the ability of the enterprise to meet its objectives. Managers must forge responses to such issues, but must they respond in an ad hoc fashion to every issue or can they develop more coherent environmental management competences? Empirical evidence was collected from a case study of the environmental issue management practices of Unilever, one of the largest food and personal care companies in the world. This company's approach to dealing with the issue of genetically modified ingredients reveals that issue managers face a complex level-of-analysis problem when confronting environmental issues: how to translate individual-level knowledge into organization-level outcomes? The theory developed here suggests that once firms learn how to span this chasm, they are able not only to address discrete environmental issues, but also to build competitive environmental advantages through the development of integrative organizational competences.

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ERIM Article Series (EAS)
Business Strategy and the Environment
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Heugens, P. (2006). Environmental issues management: Towards a multi-level theory of environmental management competence. Business Strategy and the Environment, 15(6), 363–376. doi:10.1002/bse.438