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“It’s not easy being ‘green’!”

April 1, 2009

When I think of the word “environmentalism” my thoughts are split between a buzzword that is too often used and a truly important issue that faces humans as stewards of the earth. There are radical approaches to environmentalism that are sometimes seemingly designed to shock humans into compliance with conservation efforts when perhaps a more rational approach might be just as appealing and effective. Then there are mid-range, scientific approaches which in a sound-byte society may be perceived as boring and ineffective. Within an organizational context, the “green” trends of today’s corporations and enterprises could easily become just part of another cycle of management theory which will eventually run its course. I personally think that the term “green” has been exploited beyond anything I’d imagined it to mean, transcending sustainability and environmentally-conscious behavior/habits to include notions and products that aren’t really “green” at all. “Green” in my humble opinion, is probably one of the most misused terms of our time.

Regardless of the ambiguity (and perhaps in an effort to clarify), the Academy of Management will have their annual meeting in September with the entire conference being centered around the concept of “green management”. If one has no experience with the AOM they might not know about all of the divisions it has, but there are many. After the call for submissions came out, researchers in the academic community were challenged to think about the concept of “Green Management” and what it might mean to them and their respective division(s). As a conference reviewer, I looked at about eight submissions (papers and symposia) and not one of those submissions addressed anything green. They didn’t even try. (I should note here that I rather appreciated the researchers’ resistance of the urge to try to fit a topic into a theme that really had no connection – or a weak connection at best.) That notwithstanding, it will be interesting to see how much “green” actually appears in conference presentations and resulting publications in September.

The Midwestern AOM has somewhat referenced the main conference’s “green theme” but avoided attempting to make their October regional conference all about “green”. Again, “green” is a wonderful concept and we all should be thinking about opportunities to treat our resources with care but sometimes we, as consumers of information, should avoid trying to make connections between topics that could not [entirely or sometimes even in part] possibly be connected in any way. Does that make those topics bad – or just different? My feeling is different. Don’t try to morph a topic into something different than it is. That’s deception ultimately not very useful to the consumer as good information.

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