Efficacy of China’s Strategic Environmental Management in its Institutional Environment

Yefei Yang, Antonio K. W. Lau, Peter K. C. Lee, Andy C. L. Yeung, T. C. E. Cheng

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The Chinese Government encourages firms to diffuse their operational-level environmental management (EM) into their organization’s mission and strategy to develop strategic EM to promote sustainable development. The purpose of this paper is to utilize two concepts of institutional theory (isomorphic pressures and decoupling behavior) to assess how different institutional forces arising from Chinese macro-level factors (market pressure, business turbulence, legal voids, carbon policy, structural-level governmental interference and guanxi with government) influence the efficacy of strategic EM. Design/methodology/approach: In partnership with a major consulting firm in China, the authors collect multi-informant survey data from 183 manufacturing firms drawn from a variety of industries for testing the hypotheses posited. Findings: The efficacy of strategic EM in the sampled firms is confirmed by the positive association with environmental performance. The authors also find that the efficacy of strategic EM is weakened by market pressure, business turbulence and legal voids, whereas it is strengthened by structural-level governmental interference. However, carbon policy and guanxi with government do not impact it significantly. Research limitations/implications: To extend the findings on the environmental importance of strategic EM, future research can develop and validate a management framework to guide the adoption of strategic EM. With regard to the four valid macro-level factors influencing the efficacy of strategic EM, future research can identify the reasons (e.g. conflict with corporate functions) behind them to aid manufacturers to mitigate their negative influence or enhance the positive influence on strategic EM. Social implications: China’s Government and its manufacturers (or those sharing a similar institutional environment) can expand the scope of their EM efforts from operational-level EM practices to strategic EM. The findings on the valid macro-level factors have led to practical suggestions for government bodies and manufacturers to improve the efficacy of strategic EM adoption. Overall, the implications help achieve the higher levels of firm-level environmental performance and alleviate the global pollution problem. Originality/value: A particular value of this work lies in the demonstration of combining institutional theory (organization decoupling, isomorphic pressures) with practical consideration such as guanxi with government in the particular institutional environment of China to help address an important and context-related problem, environmental performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-163
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2019


  • Environmental management
  • Environmental performance
  • Institutional factors
  • Institutional theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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