Academic journal article Tamara Journal of Critical Organisation Inquiry

Many Shades of "Green": An Exploration of Sustainability Storytelling across and within University Organizations

Academic journal article Tamara Journal of Critical Organisation Inquiry

Many Shades of "Green": An Exploration of Sustainability Storytelling across and within University Organizations

Article excerpt

Abstract

Researchers apply theories by Boje and the storytelling community to further understand how organizations, specifically universities, portray themselves on different fronts through storytelling in regard to sustainability. The current study expands the existing knowledge regarding stories (i.e. narrative, living story, antenarrative, and microstoria) by the synergies and lack thereof between them and demonstrates how organizations need to portray a unified image since stories can, and do, shape the physical, objective world. Two complementary studies are conducted to explore the sustainability story of university campuses. In Study One, three southwestern university campuses are explored through campus tour narratives. Study Two looks in-depth at one university to help understand how the story is told from inside the organization which leads to what is observed by the final consumer. Several inconsistencies are found on how the story is told to prospective students. The storytelling theories presented in this paper expand knowledge by providing insight into how one individual may change the perspective of sustainability and the lasting effects this may cause. Being present on several campuses paints a picture of how vastly different the stories told to potential students are. Applying the theories of narrative, living story, and antenarrative may help explain how synergic a university presents its sustainability objective to prospective students.

Keywords

Sustainability Storytelling Living story

The 'greening' of organizations has become a buzzword in the past few years (Nodoushani & Nodoushani 2010). Many organizations, large and small, public and private, have done this for a variety of reasons such as investor interest in green companies, customers who seek earth-friendly products and services, as well as available funding and/or tax incentives for reducing waste and pollution. However, other companies truly have a green spirit and want to help the natural environment. A number of universities and colleges across the United States have also decided to 'green' themselves. This research examines, across several southwestern campuses, and from different perspectives, if being sustainable is a priority or just a marketing tool. We adopt the idea that sustainability is a way that people and business can attain their full potential while protecting the natural environment. However, in this paper, we focus solely on the environmental element and how that is reflected.

By looking at characteristics of the universities' green marketing messages and the stories told by individuals involved in those institutions, we see not only the organizational narrative, but personal narratives as well. There is usually a reason to tell a story and the story usually says something about the storyteller (Burley, Jenkins, Laska, & Davis 2007). Exploring this idea through campus tours and campus sustainability groups allows the researchers to glean a truer picture of how salient being green is as well as any possible underlying motives for promoting a green campus.

In this paper, the researchers begin with a brief review of pertinent literature. Then we diverge into two unique, yet complementary studies, in which universities are explored at different levels. The first study compares three large southwestern universities, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; and University of Texas, El Paso from the perspective of campus tour guides and the stories they tell. The second study looks in-depth at a single southwestern university, New Mexico State University, through the eyes of administrators, web developers, employees, and students. Our study hopes to contribute to the literature by revealing how organizations, specifically universities, portray themselves on different fronts through storytelling in regard to environmental sustainability. This research contributes to existing theory by demonstrating how the narrative, living story, and antenarrative can at times be in synergy, and at other times, not. …

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