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Published in: Journal of Business Ethics 4/2022

01-01-2021 | Original Paper

Innovating for Good in Opportunistic Contexts: The Case for Firms’ Environmental Divergence

Authors: Dante I. Leyva-de la Hiz, J. Alberto Aragon-Correa, Andrew G. Earle

Published in: Journal of Business Ethics | Issue 4/2022

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Abstract

Opportunistic behaviors are considered ethically and strategically troublesome since they disrupt otherwise mutually beneficial relationships. Previous literature has shown that firms attempt to protect their investments from opportunism by generating a large amount of patented marginal innovations in domains central to their industry. However, this approach may generate some ethical dilemmas by preventing firms and societies from more radical, collaborative, and much-needed environmental progress. We extend the environmental innovation literature using strategic and ethical lenses to analyze the potential of an alternative, divergent way to provide financial opportunities for a focal firm without aiming to prevent innovative opportunities for competitors. Our longitudinal analysis of 6768 environmental patents from 59 large companies worldwide in the electrical components and equipment industry shows that high levels of innovation intensity, environmental scope, bargaining power, and environmental expertise increase the incidence of patented environmental innovations related to domains in which industry competitors are less focused (i.e., technological divergence). We also show a positive relationship between this divergence and market-based firm performance. Our results suggest that pursuing innovative divergence to avoid opportunism may make ethical and market sense and we also identify the organizational factors that can support these efforts.
Footnotes
1
Since this variable may be subject to outliers, we corrected it through the winsorizing approach (Dixon 1980). We thank an anonymous reviewer for pointing out this issue.
 
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Metadata
Title
Innovating for Good in Opportunistic Contexts: The Case for Firms’ Environmental Divergence
Authors
Dante I. Leyva-de la Hiz
J. Alberto Aragon-Correa
Andrew G. Earle
Publication date
01-01-2021
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Published in
Journal of Business Ethics / Issue 4/2022
Print ISSN: 0167-4544
Electronic ISSN: 1573-0697
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-020-04693-0