In order for business and industry to exercise environmental responsibility in their daily operations and practices, it is necessary for company personnel at all levels to be aware of and committed to the implementation of environmental policies. This study used a phenomenographic approach to explore different ways in which company executives understand and apply environmental responsibility in their managerial roles. Ten senior managers located in three large industrial companies were interviewed and encouraged to express their own interpretation of the phenomenon of environmental responsibility. Four distinct conceptions emerged from the data which differ according to the preferred methods of expressing environmental responsibility within a business setting and the perceived motivations underlying corporate environmental action.
Environmental responsibility may be conceived as: (1) an internal proactive undertaking by the company; (2) a reactive response to external community pressures; (3) a negotiated responsibility based on balance and compromise between competing demands; or (4) a collective responsibility involving cooperation amongst companies, government and the wider community. These findings provide a realistic perspective on the phenomenon of management behaviour towards the environment. They form the basis for development of education programmes which will assist managers to adopt and implement environmentally responsible practices within their companies. Further research to extend this knowledge base is recommended.