Other Unpublished Work | 2012

Strategic responses to collective activism in the U.S. biomass sector

by Shon R. Hiatt

Abstract

Almost all companies face constraints and pressure from collective activists. Using tactics such as protests, boycotts, and lobbying, social movement organizations and collective actors can draw significant media attention to issues facing industries and organizations, thereby inflicting damage to organizations' public image and negatively impacting their performance. However, previous research is unclear about how firms can successfully respond to such tactics. Instead of acquiescing, fighting, or ignoring the tactics of collective activists, firms in such sectors can adopt counterframing techniques to alter their market identity to one that is aligned with the values and ideologies of the activists, and thereby become potential solutions to the proselytized problems. Empirically, I examine how organizations in the United States wood-pellet biomass sector, facing pressure from environmental activists, engaged in counterframing tactics to alter their market identity from a forest products industry to a sustainable, renewable energy sector—an image in harmony with the mission and ideals of many of the environmental movement actors who opposed organizations using forest products. Specifically, this paper explores the effect of such framing on the inclusion of the biomass sector in state incentive laws, the moderating impact of collective activists and political structures on such regulation, and the subsequent mediating impact of these regulatory changes on biomass sector growth.

Keywords: Environmental Sustainability; Business and Community Relations; Social and Collaborative Networks; Governing Rules, Regulations, and Reforms; Identity; Forest Products Industry; United States;

Citation:

Hiatt, Shon R. "Strategic responses to collective activism in the U.S. biomass sector." 2012.