Stakeholder influence and the diffusion of eco-efficiency practices in the natural gas exploration and production industry

Simon Hauser, Elizabethtown College


Purpose – This paper aims to empirically investigate the motivations behind eco-efficiency sustainability measures of firms active in natural gas exploration and extraction from deep shale formations in the north-eastern USA. Design/methodology/approach – The research design leverages a combination of semi-structured firm interviews with an online industry survey. Instead of pre-defining stakeholder categories, this study uses an emergent analytical framework to ascertain the stakeholder groups relevant to companies in this unconventional energy sector. Findings – Results show that these practices tend to be primarily influenced by internal stakeholders, but that regulatory, community and industry stakeholders also play a role. Managers also assigned a relatively high importance to the role of regulatory and community stakeholders in informing these practices. Research limitations/implications – Though limited in generalizability beyond the energy sector and accounting for rival causal influences beyond stakeholders and managers, the results suggest a close engagement of firms with regulatory and community stakeholders with environmental practices and regulatory framework still in flux. Originality/value – Prior research has not explored the full range of stakeholders relevant in influencing these eco-efficiency practices. Therefore, the authors have a limited understanding whether these practices are primarily internally promoted by firm managers or employees, or whether they are also influenced by industry, community and regulatory constituents. Furthermore, the shale gas industry with recent technological innovations aimed at the core of the business process, presents a rare opportunity to investigate drivers and implementations of eco-efficiency practices.