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Purpose – This paper forwards a conceptual model identifying some of the key sources of judgment error in individual environmental sensemaking. Recommendations are offered to mitigate some of these biasing dysfunctions and thereby improve the effectiveness of environmentally related business policy. Design/methodology/approach – Theories of cognitive and behavioral sciences are reviewed and applied to create a conceptual model describing some of the key influences on individual sensemaking in regard to environmental risk and opportunity. Findings – It is found that the model presented in this paper contributes to the literature of corporate social responsibility in explaining some of the heuristic phenomena that can lead to denial of a firm's negative environmental impact, or conversely, recognition of emerging opportunities arising from increasing societal concern for environmental integrity. Many environmental scientists believe denial is omnipresent in modern business and governmental organizations. In addition, because the model is grounded in well‐established theories of problematic heuristic bias, it helps identify “leverage points” where well‐designed interventions can be deployed to promote learning and improved decision making. The model helps the decision maker better understand and potentially influence ethical judgment because ethical decision making is conceived within the frame of bounded ethicality versus a less potent theory of intervention based upon espoused moral prescriptions. Research limitations/implications – Some important influences on environmental sensemaking are not emphasized in the model to include dimensions of individual personality, early childhood experiences, gender, religious background, etc. Rather, the emphasis here is placed upon relatively ubiquitous cognitive heuristics and other cognitive phenomena likely to influence many organizational decision makers. Originality/value – This analysis and resulting conceptual model should help change agents, students, policy makers and business practitioners avoid predictable biases and sensemaking distortions and, in so doing, improve the firm's social responsibility profile and recognition of emerging business opportunities growing out of sustainability imperatives.
Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Oct 28, 2010
Keywords: Decision making; Risk assessment; Individual perception; Cognition; Consumer behaviour
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