Jennifer Howard-Grenville and Andrew Nelson and their coauthors were one of two groups taking the top prize of Best Paper for “Insider-Driven Change in Fields of Practice: Exploring the Case of Green Chemistry,” at the SEE (Sustainability, Ethics, and Entrepreneurship) Conference held April 28–May 1, in Denver, Colorado. Meanwhile, Mike Russo, department of management head and Lundquist Professor of Sustainable Management, was the conference’s invited keynote speaker.
“We’ve been working on this for a very long time—data collection started 2009,” said Howard-Grenville, associate professor of management at the UO Lundquist College of Business.
And it all started with the simple question: How and through what channels is the field of green chemistry growing?
“We thought that green chemistry was very interesting in its emergence and evolution, compared to other technologies and inventions because it was really about a mindset: an approach to chemistry that was cleaner, safer, less environmentally harmful,” she added. “It wasn’t coming necessarily from high prestige universities or major chemical firms, but it was popping up in unexpected places, like liberal arts colleges and pharmaceutical firms. We became intrigued by how those changes were occurring.”
Howard-Grenville said one point the authors argue—and find—is that green chemistry can be a tough sell, not for the general public or policy-makers, but for chemists themselves.
“It turns out scientists trying to convince other scientists to get creative is not as easy as it sounds,” she noted.
Andrew Earle, MBA ’08, PhD ’13, now assistant professor of strategic management and entrepreneurship at the University of New Hampshire, is a coauthor on the winning study. Julie Haack, UO Chemistry assistant department head, and Douglas Young ’09 (CAS), PhD ’11 (CAS), now at Lane Community College, are also coauthors.
As for the award and conference, associate professor of management Nelson was impressed at the quality of scholars in attendance.
“From that perspective, Best Paper is a nice compliment,” he said. “We were among some of the finest scholars in our field.”
The authors were notified their paper was a contender for best, but the winners weren’t announced until the conference closing reception. This year, two papers were named best. “Market Mediators and the Tradeoffs of Legitimacy-Seeking Behaviors in a Nascent Category” by Brandon Lee of Melbourne Business School, Michael Lounsbury of University of Alberta, and Shon Hiatt of University of Southern California also received the top honor.
“Having that peer recognition is very humbling and very rewarding,” Nelson said.
“I’ve never won a Best Paper award, ever, so it’s been kind of fun,” added Howard-Grenville.
In addition to the conference recognition, the paper’s authors have been invited to revise it for publication in a top management research journal.
Both researchers were thrilled with the Best Paper distinction, but Nelson said the real star of the SEE conference was Russo’s keynote talk on "Sustainable Entrepreneurship: Elevating the Roles of Communities and Local Values."
Using a framework developed by Shlomo Schwartz that considers a range of 10 basic human values, Russo asserted that within some communities there can be greater popular support associated with values like benevolence and munificence. Local citizens can support hybrid companies through means such as increased local demand for responsibly-sourced products and services.
To illustrate his point, Russo showed a humorous video clip from the TV show Portlandia in which two diners interrogate their waitress about the care and feeding of the chicken they are about to have for dinner. The clip is an exaggeration, but demonstrates the role consumer values play in the decision making process and the opportunities for businesses to innovate in response to those values.
All in all, from the community values illustrated by Russo to Howard-Grenville and Nelson’s take on green chemistry, our faculty brought a bit of Oregon to Colorado. And some of the greatest minds in sustainability liked what they saw.