Ecology-oriented business administration

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The ecology-oriented business administration (also operational environmental economics) represents a sub-area of ​​the business administration . It does not only refer to a function within the company, but intervenes in all sub-areas of the value chain from procurement to sales . Its aim is to avoid, reduce or prevent the damage caused by economic activity. Through this ostensibly environmental point of view but also to economic benefits arise (eg. As cost reduction by saving of resources ). By means of an ecologically oriented company management, operational control is aimed at with conscious consideration of ecological aspects.

Field of activity of ecology-oriented business administration

In order to be able to grasp the task environment, it is important to recognize that ecology-oriented business administration should not be viewed as an isolated discipline. Rather, it represents an interdisciplinary sub-area that has an impact on almost all areas of knowledge in business administration, i.e. H. in all other disciplines there are problems of environmental economics. The reason for the extensive range of tasks can also be seen in it.

Development history

The direct engagement of the economy with the issues of sustainability and environmental protection did not begin until the 1970s. The 1972 UN Environment Conference in Stockholm and the 1973/74 oil crisis made a major contribution to this. Before that there were only isolated approaches and programs, which, however, date back to ancient times.

Environmental protection in the company's target system

The environment can be used as a goal in the target system a company's formal target be anchored. In order to integrate corporate environmental economics into the company's goals, it is necessary to develop from a concept to the derivation of specific goals. In order to measure the degree of target achievement, companies use instruments such as indicator systems and take measures to close gaps.

Effect on classic corporate goals

The integration of the ecological orientation can have different effects on the classic corporate goals, such as profit maximization. A distinction is made between complementary, competing and indifferent target relationships. It also happens that the ecological goal can be converted into a classic corporate goal. In such a case, the goals are identical. In the case of complementary target relationships, the ecological goal (e.g. saving resources) has a positive effect on the classic corporate goals (e.g. reducing costs). In contrast, there is the competing target relationship. In such a case, the realization of classic goals and ecologically oriented goals stand in the way and influence each other in a negative direction ( trade-off ). If there is an indifferent relationship between goals, there is neither a positive nor a negative influence on the goals set. Both sides can be viewed and reached independently of one another.

Many companies meanwhile also define corporate success in terms of securing the long-term existence of the company (e.g. profit over several periods) and the acceptance of all relevant stakeholders (e.g. investors).


Three corporate sustainability strategies can be distinguished: efficiency , consistency and sufficiency .

The efficiency strategy is the most common. This is about decoupling economic performance and environmental consumption, about the substitution of products and processes with more sustainable, in this case resource-saving products and processes. It is the dominant strategy that primarily relies on technical progress . Examples of this are more economical vehicles in the automotive sector or a reduction in energy and material consumption in production. The limits of this strategy lie in the so-called rebound effect, also known as Jevons' paradox . An increase in the efficiency of a good or a service has the same effect as a price reduction and, all other things being equal, is associated with an increase in the demand for this good.

The consistency strategy focuses on the recycling of materials and energy and thus aims to close the material and energetic flow of economic processes. Consistency here means the consistency with natural material cycles (see eco-effectiveness ). The use of waste heat and the reuse of industrial water are examples in production, the establishment of complete material cycles through to what is referred to as industrial symbiosis go much further. With a consistency strategy, not only technical changes are necessary, but also major organizational changes in the design, production, distribution and redistribution of products.

Finally, the sufficiency strategy as perhaps the most inconvenient strategy of all: A sufficiency strategy aims to change usage behavior and to change the needs of users, be it end customers or corporate customers. Examples on the end customer side are all business models that are geared towards access to product benefits, such as car sharing , which results in a reflexive consumption of mobility services.


The trigger for ecologically-oriented thinking in companies does not only lie in the direct perception of ecological scarcity by the company itself. It is reinforced by the demands and requirements of various interest groups. There are interdependencies between these stakeholders and the company , which require the company to meet the expectations.

Macro and task environment of the company

Macro environment

Ecological, social, technological, political and economic framework conditions influence the company in the macro environment and apply to all companies to the same extent.

Ecological framework conditions : The ecological scarcity as well as the economic scarcity of the environmental media soil, water and air and fossil resources require that companies relieve the environment. On the other hand, there are ecological effects that are associated with environmental damage. These include, for example, the greenhouse effect , eutrophication and acidification of the soil .

Economic framework : Economic framework primarily results from the branch a company belongs to. Characteristic are general growth and development variables that characterize the dynamics of the market as well as competitive constellations that can inhibit or promote the company. The use of environmental protection measures means a competitive disadvantage in the short term, but in the long run it leads to an image gain and a higher profit margin due to the additional ecological benefits.

Technological framework : The " state of the science ", the " state of the art " and by the " general accepted engineering " are companies affected positively or negatively in its action possibilities. The establishment of a new technology can result in opportunities for the company on the market, or, for example, entire branches of industry (e.g. coal industry) can be omitted due to restrictions. In a broader sense, the technological framework conditions include location-dependent conditions such as research institutions, educational and cultural institutions as well as the acceptance of the technology / technology in the population (e.g. biogas plant).

Social framework : The social framework is primarily determined by the four influencing groups: residents, citizens' initiatives and associations , the mass media and the general public. They try to represent and enforce their own interests and thereby influence the actions of the companies. Through interactive interactions between the individual groups, environmentally relevant topics can be addressed more intensively or weakened. As a result, there are changes in consumer behavior, which, due to increasing environmental awareness, force companies into corporate social responsibility .

Political and legal framework : Companies are influenced by regulatory, non-fiscal instruments such as environmental regulations or by fiscal instruments such as the eco-tax . The main drive for ecologically-oriented action of a company are the framework conditions laid down by the state. They always take effect when the measures practiced by the company for environmentally conscious action are not sufficient for the legislator. The environmental policy in this case has a wide variety of instruments (eg. As requirements, financial aid, etc.) to control corporate action.

Task environment

In the environment of a company there are various stakeholder groups with their demands on the company. The aim is to meet all requirements as far as possible, which inevitably leads to a target collision. The intensity of these demands is measured using the concept of ecological concern . In contrast to the macro environment, the stakeholders have a different effect on each company.

Customers : If customers themselves notice the ecological scarcity , they are increasingly asking for more environmentally friendly products, for example organic food. They thus determine the product-relevant properties and thus also the environmental friendliness of a product. On the other hand, a company can specifically try to influence the attitudes and wishes of customers positively through ecologically oriented marketing.

Suppliers : Since a company's production cannot influence the environmental friendliness of a product alone, the suppliers and materials must be included in the decision-making process. A distinction is made between an evaluation of the suppliers themselves and an evaluation of the performance of a supplier. The suppliers can initially be assessed using a supplier pre-selection using self-disclosure. The supplier provides information about special ecologically-oriented products and services. The further evaluation can take place via a supplier evaluation procedure , which carries out an assessment based on characteristic, environmentally relevant features. A criterion for the selection of suppliers could be the existence of an environmental management system (e.g. EMAS , DIN EN ISO 14001 ). Another method for evaluating the ecological orientation of a supplier is the certification (LINK) by independent third parties. If companies have specific requirements for the requested performance of a supplier, environmentally oriented criteria catalogs can simplify the selection process. In addition, composition certificates (e.g. harmless ingredients) and certification of the performance by third parties can be required.

Competitors : The existence of different market entry and exit barriers results in competitive shifts that companies can use to their advantage with regard to a targeted ecological orientation or are adversely affected by them. The ecology-oriented competition analysis is used to identify such competitive shifts . Potential competitors in an ecologically oriented environment are to be identified, their strengths and weaknesses identified (e.g. using SWOT analysis ), their future ecological strategies analyzed and a corresponding reaction profile of the competitors derived. A competitor portfolio (LINK) is suitable for the ecologically oriented classification of the company on the market. With regard to ecology orientation, there are new potential competitors with possible substitutes for conventional products. It is therefore up to the company to develop and maintain its own strategic competitive advantages by means of an ecological focus.

Employees : An environmentally conscious corporate strategy can only be implemented if all employees of a company are included in the ecological orientation. This is done initially by the top management level, which is responsible for the environmentally-oriented company policy, the resulting organization of the company and for the control and intensification of environmentally relevant actions. The middle management level is responsible for the management of individual projects and the associated ecological weak point analysis as well as external representatives of environmental protection issues. The lowest management level, on the other hand, is the point of contact for all company employees with regard to environmental policy issues, develops specific environmental projects and is responsible for monitoring environmentally hazardous plants. The operational anchoring of environmental responsibilities at management level is required by legislation (e.g. in BImSchG or in KrW- / AbfG ). Likewise, the institution of the company representative (e.g. immission control officer , waste officer ), who is responsible for the company's own monitoring, is required by law at the executive level . All other employees also determine, through their direct behavior or their intentions to act at all levels of service provision, to what extent a company can realize its ecological orientation.

Lenders : On the one hand, due to the increased importance of the environmental sector, the lenders are faced with extensive opportunities for granting loans. On the other hand, however, there is an increased risk potential for them, since all other industries are increasingly exposed to acceptance, earnings and sales problems. An ecologically-oriented creditworthiness check is used to try to minimize the risks for the lender resulting from environmental hazards. This in turn can influence the ecological orientation of the company.

Shareholders : The increasing environmental awareness among the population as well as the risks associated with environmentally hazardous corporate governance inevitably mean that investors or shareholders consider economic selection criteria when making their decision. Shares and bonds are selected according to ecological criteria or investments are made in environmental funds. The motives range from social responsibility to improving the image to purely economic reasons such as B. Cost savings. Eco-ratings (e.g. Oekom Research) and eco-indices (e.g. Dow Jones Sustainability Index ) are used to assess the ecological orientation of a company . By orienting a company to the ecological demands of investors, this can create its own corporate identity. However, negative entrepreneurial behavior can therefore also be sanctioned from outside.

Stages of the value chain

A product is only as environmentally friendly as its components. Therefore, the suppliers are to be included in the ecological orientation. They should be evaluated and selected on the basis of environmentally relevant criteria. Consideration of environmental labels can also help with the selection.

The basis for such a consideration is the ecologically oriented analysis of the product life cycle . This concept is described under the name Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in the environmental management standard series ISO 14000ff (standard ISO 14040) . For this purpose, the life cycle of a product is divided into the primary functional areas of procurement, production, sales and disposal as well as the secondary functional areas of research and development, logistics, personnel / organization, marketing and controlling. For each functional area, the ecological effects are determined and balanced (" life cycle assessment "). With this approach, product alternatives can be compared across all stages of the value chain or ecological weak points of products can be identified.

Control of the functional areas is primarily possible with the help of the concepts of eco- budgeting and the ecological result. In eco-budgeting, a budget is drawn up that only includes ecological costs. With this budget, pre-determined ecological targets are met either restrictively under the condition of minimizing costs or investments are made under the condition of the ecological benefit maximization. With the ecology result concept (or profit center concept), not only the costs but also the revenues from the environmental measures are considered. These revenues can be real or internal, e.g. B. be offset by the use of pollution rights .

New developments

For some time now there has been a trend towards expanding the perspective on the company and its environment towards concepts such as corporate social responsibility (CSR), corporate citizenship (CC), corporate sustainability (CS) and sustainability management . Companies perceive their social role more strongly in a globalized world (and / or reflect on it) and incorporate ecological and / or social issues into their corporate activities. The sustainability management aims to integrate environmental, social and economic goals and an environmental and social management in the conventional economic management of the company.

See also



  • A. Baumast, J. Pape (Ed.): Corporate Environmental Management - Sustainable Management in Companies. Textbook of the doctoral network for sustainable business. 4th edition. Verlag Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-8001-5995-6 .
  • C. Burschel, D. Losen, A. Wiendl: Business administration of sustainable companies. Oldenbourg, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-486-20033-X .
  • R. Gastl: Continuous improvement in environmental management. The CIP requirement of ISO 14001 in theory and business practice. vdf-Verlag, Zurich 2005, ISBN 3-7281-3034-6 .
  • E. Günther: Ecology-oriented management. Environmental (world-oriented) thinking in business administration. Lucius & Lucius, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-8282-0415-7 .
  • M. Jänicke, P. Kunig, M. Stitzel: Learning and workbook environmental policy. Politics, law and management of environmental protection in government and companies. Dietz, Bonn 2003, ISBN 3-8012-0319-0 .
  • H. Meffert, M. Kirchgeorg: Market-oriented environmental management: conception - strategy - implementation with practical cases. 3. Edition. Schäffer-Poeschel Verlag, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-7910-1147-2 .
  • S. Schaltegger, R. Burritt, H. Petersen: An Introduction to Corporate Environmental Management. Striving for Sustainability. Greenleaf, Sheffield 2003, ISBN 1-874719-65-9 .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Edeltraud Günther: Ecology-oriented management . 2008, p. 41 .
  2. ^ Edeltraud Günther: Ecology-oriented management . 2008, p. 12-19 .
  3. A. Baumast, J. Pape (ed.): Corporate environmental management - sustainable management in companies. Textbook of the doctoral network for sustainable business. 4th edition. Verlag Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart 2009, p. 89.
  4. M. Jänicke, P. Kunig, M. Stitzel: Learning and work book environmental policy. Politics, law and management of environmental protection in the state and companies .: Dietz, Bonn 2003, p. 25.
  5. ^ Stefan Schaltegger , Roger Burritt and Holger Petersen: An Introduction to Corporate Environmental Management. Striving for Sustainability . Greenleaf, Sheffield 2003, pp. 25 .
  6. Joseph Huber: Sustainable development through sufficiency, efficiency and consistency . In: Peter Fritz et al. (Ed.): Sustainability from a natural and social science perspective . Stuttgart, S. 31-46 .
  7. ^ S. Schaltegger, R. Burritt, H. Petersen: An Introduction to Corporate Environmental Management. Striving for Sustainability. Greenleaf, Sheffield 2003, p. 42.
  8. Federal Environment Ministry (BMU); econsense (ed.); S. Schaltegger, C. Herzig, O. Kleiber, T. Klinke, J. Müller: Sustainability management in companies. From the idea to practice: management approaches to implement corporate social responsibility and corporate sustainability. 3. Edition. BMU, econsense, Center for Sustainability Management, Berlin / Lüneburg 2007, p. 17.