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Article

Green Development Behavior and Performance of Industrial Enterprises Based on Grounded Theory Study: Evidence from China

by 1,*, 1,* and 2
1
School of Management, Jiangsu University, Zhenjiang 212013, China
2
School of Civil Engineering and Architecture, Southwest Petroleum University, Chengdu 610500, China
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2019, 11(15), 4133; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11154133
Received: 11 July 2019 / Revised: 26 July 2019 / Accepted: 29 July 2019 / Published: 31 July 2019

Abstract

:
The issue of the green development of industrial enterprises has become the focus of attention of all parties. However, the driving factors of green development behavior and performance in industrial enterprises remains unexplored. What are the driving factors of green development behavior and performance in industrial enterprises? How does the theoretical model of green development behavior and performance in industrial enterprises work? In order to reveal the driving factors of green development behavior and performance in industrial enterprises, this paper develops a theoretical model and tests the model through the evidence of Chinese industrial enterprises. Based on the further study of in-depth interview materials from 52 employees in industrial enterprises, this paper takes industrial enterprises as the research object and constructs a theoretical model by using a grounded theory method. The results show that 40 initial concepts, 10 initial categories, four main categories and three core categories are obtained through the coding step of grounded theory. The study found the following three conclusions: (1) The green development of industrial enterprise exists in the organization in the form of specific behavioral expressions; (2) The green development of industrial enterprise caused the occurrence of green development behavior of industrial enterprises. The external factors of industrial enterprise green development consist of the environment of policy and institutional, market environment and public supervision. The internal factors of industrial enterprise green development are composed of tangible and intangible resources of enterprises; (3) The occurrence of industrial enterprise green development behavior has led to the consequence of green development of industrial enterprises. The consequence is embodied in the green development performance of industrial enterprises, including corporate financial performance, corporate environmental performance and corporate social performance. In addition, some management implications are presented based on the research findings. This research enriches the field of green development theory, business development theory and green behavior research. This study also provides a reference for exploring theoretical models of industrial enterprise green development in other countries and regions of the world.

1. Introduction

Industrial pollution is one of the main sources of pollutants [1], and the issue of industrial enterprise green development has become the focus of attention of all parties. In 2011, China surpassed the United States in industrial output, becoming the world’s largest industrial producer [2]. In 2018, China’s GDP reached 90.03 trillion yuan, and industrial value-added accounted for 33.895% of GDP [3]. China has adopted a resource-driven economic development strategy in the process of industrialization with high input, high consumption, high pollution, low quality, low efficiency and low output. However, with the mid-high speed development of China’s economy [4], industrial enterprises, as the engine of economic development, must be reshaped in the context of the new normal. The quality and efficiency of industrial enterprise development needs to be transformed to green development. The Chinese government has made great efforts to reduce industrial pollution. In 2017, the completed investment in China’s industrial wastewater, waste gas and solid waste projects was 763.76 million yuan, 4462.28 million yuan and 127,419 yuan respectively [3]. Contaminants may spread through physical and economic linkages, causing more severe all-round pollution through negative externalities and spatial spillover effects. Therefore, the transformation of industrial enterprise behavior into green development is crucial from the perspective of reducing industrial pollution. At present, China’s economy is in the critical period of “quantity catching up” to “quality catching up”, “scale expansion” to “structure optimization” and “factor-driven” to “innovation-driven”. Industrial enterprises are the basic force to promote the development of national economy, construct the main body of market economy, and promote social stability. Green development is a continuation of the concept of sustainable development (SD) [5]. “Green” realizes the harmonious coexistence between man and nature, and “development” realizes the national rejuvenation with the prosperity of nation and people. Green development is an emerging development model that achieves sustainable development by protecting the ecological environment under the constraints of ecological capacity and resource carrying capacity.
In the face of the enormous environmental pressures of China’s economic development, China’s economic development must achieve a green transformation based on green development [6]. In general, the meaning that green is given is often associated with concepts such as nature and ecology. With the development of productivity and the progress of social economy, green has been given the meaning of environmental protection, pollution-free and sustainable. Unlike traditional non-green technologies, green technology (GT) is a technology that saves resources and energy, and reduces environmental pollution [7,8,9]. Unlike traditional production, green production (GP) is a production that meets the needs of reducing industrial waste and environmental pollution, and saving energy [10,11]; Unlike traditional supply chain management, green supply chain management (GSCM) is a management that improves sustainability and other performance metrics. It can be seen that green is not only a necessary condition for sustainable development, but also an important embodiment of the people’s pursuit of a better life. Whether industrial enterprises can achieve green development is not only related to the survival and development of the enterprise itself, but also to the overall development of China’s economic and social green development and ecological civilization. Due to the differences in the basis and vitality of green development, the path dependence of development and the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in the process of green development, industrial enterprises are bound to have significant differences in the behavior choice and implementation path of green development. Therefore, studying the driving factors of green development behavior and performance of industrial enterprises is of great theoretical and practical value for enriching and expanding the theory of green development, and formulating a scientific, classified, step-by-step, local-adapted green guidance strategy.
However, the existing research has not revealed the green development behavior and performance of industrial enterprises’ driving factors. Therefore, this paper aims to develop a theoretical model to reveal the driving factors of green development behavior and performance in industrial enterprises. So, what are the driving factors of green development behavior and performance in industrial enterprises? How does the driving factor model of industrial enterprise green development behavior and performance work? The above two problems are the scientific problems that need to be solved in this paper. Based on this, this paper takes industrial enterprises as the research object, and tries to conduct further study of in-depth interview materials from 52 employees in industrial enterprises. Then a theoretical model is constructed by Grounded theory, laying a foundation for subsequent research.
This paper has theoretical contributions and practical value. (1) Theoretical contribution. This research enriches green development theory, enterprise development theory and the field of green behavior research; the driving factor theoretical model of green development behavior and performance in industrial enterprises constructed by this study provides a reference for subsequent research; this research extends the scope of the grounded theory. (2) Practical value. This research provides a reference for the government to develop a scientific, classified, step-by-step, locally-adapted green guidance strategy; this study provides a reference for industrial enterprises to move toward green development.
This paper consists of five sections. The main contents of the remaining four sections are as follows: The Section 2 is a literature review. The Section 3 is the method and data, introducing the research methods and data sources used in this study. The Section 4 is the result analysis, introducing open coding, axial coding, selective coding, theoretical saturation test and model interpretation. The Section 5 is the conclusion and inspiration, introducing the main conclusions, management implications, research limitations and future prospect of this paper.

2. Literature Review

Industrial enterprises are the direct bearers of transforming science and technology into practical productivity and materialized products, and the development of industrial enterprises plays an important role in China’s economic system [12]. Focusing on the green development of industrial enterprises, this research mainly reviews the domestic and foreign literatures from the definition and connotation of corporate green development behavior, the influencing factors of corporate green development and the green development performance of enterprises.
The green development and the sustainable development of enterprises are in the same line. Some scholars have laid a solid theoretical foundation for the research of green development of enterprises in the field of sustainable development of enterprises. Although sustainable development has gained a lot of policy traction in the past few decades, global consumption and production trends are still unsustainable [13]. As a member of society, enterprises must play a leading role in identifying and implementing sustainable solutions [14]. Contrary to the anti-industrial, anti-profit and anti-growth of the early environmentalist movement, companies must play a central role in achieving the strategic goals of sustainable development [15]. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015 set the agenda for sustainable development beyond 2015. The SDGs include 12 recommendations that must be widely adopted in 2030 for sustainable production and consumption principles. In this case, companies are often considered to have the resources needed to effectively address sustainability issues [16]. Increasing policy and consumer pressures to improve environmental sustainability often promotes the development and implementation of corporate strategies, reducing the environmental impact of products and services provided by companies [17]. According to the UN Global Compact [13], enterprises should take precautionary measures to address environmental challenges, take steps to promote greater environmental responsibility, and encourage the development and promotion of environmental technologies. Although the green development of enterprises is in line with the sustainable development of enterprises, there are certain differences. Sustainable development of enterprises is more concerned with how to survive on their own. The Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China elaborated on vigorously promoting the construction of ecological civilization by using the theory of “two mountains” (i.e., Lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets) [18]. It was pointed out that only by paying more attention to the productive factor of ecological environment, respecting the development law of natural ecology and protecting and utilizing the ecological environment, can we develop our life productivity. It is better to promote green development more consciously. Therefore, in addition to ensuring the sustainable survival of enterprise itself, it is necessary to pay more attention to the word “green”.
In summary, the current research on the green development of enterprises is mainly born out of the sustainable development of enterprises. Moreover, the research on the green development of industrial enterprises is not systematic and in-depth, and it cannot effectively reveal the driving factors of the industrial enterprise green development behavior and performance.

2.1. Driving Factors of Enterprise Green Development

Researchers conducted research on the driving factors of enterprise green development. Xie et al. [19] believed that in the digital context, intelligence is conducive to the optimization of the process and resource allocation in the green development of enterprises. Networking is conducive to knowledge acquisition and information dissemination in the green development process of enterprises, and big data is conducive to the business analysis and scientific decision-making of the green development process of enterprises. Li et al. [20] proposed that the construction of culture, management practices, human resource allocation and security systems should be considered in the green development of enterprises. Xiong and Liu [21] found that environmental protection tax has an incentive effect on the green development of enterprises. In addition, some scholars believed that legal regulation is also important for the green development of enterprises [22]. Some researchers believed that the current GDP assessment indicators have not taken the ecological impact factors into account, which has seriously hindered the green development of enterprises. Moreover, enterprise green development is also affected by government, enterprise and public environmental awareness [23], green technology innovation [24], and enterprise behavior [25]. Guo [26] investigated the dynamic mechanism of enterprise green development, including institutional pressure derived from green demand, efficiency improvement demand, final green consumer demand induction, competitiveness cultivation promotion and green image establishment. Although some researchers have tried to explore the influencing factors of the green development of enterprises, these studies have failed to take into account the particularity of the green development of industrial enterprises and cannot reveal the influencing factors of the green development of industrial enterprises. Therefore, this paper takes industrial enterprises as the research object and attempts to construct a theoretical model suitable for the green development of industrial enterprises through the Grounded theory method.

2.2. Enterprises Green Development Behavior

Green behavior is an environmentally friendly behavior, such as cleaner production, energy-saving behavior, green consumption, recycling, disposal of household waste, and voting for green parties [27]. Green behavior is closely related to people’s food, clothing and housing, which involves all aspects of production and life. Green behavior has received high attention from international researchers in recent years. Researchers have made great efforts and made some achievements in exploring the influencing factors of green behavior. Some researchers explored the factors influencing green behavior by using the Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) method. Paço et al. [28] found that green value has a positive impact on green buying behavior and acceptance of green advertising. The intentions and behaviors of low-income households’ green consumption have also attracted the attention of researchers. Based on the theory of planned behavior (TPB), Al Mamun [29] found that attitude and perceived behavioral control have a positive impact on the willingness to consume green products. Varela-Candamio et al. [30] used a meta-analysis approach to find that environmental education can promote green behavior. In order to find the role of skepticism in green purchase behavior, Goh [31] based on attitude-behavior-context theory found that the relationship between environmental concerns and environmental knowledge is subject to mediation of green skepticism and green purchase willingness. Other researchers have studied factors influencing green behavior from other perspectives. In order to explore the impact of negative information dissemination on green behavior, Li et al. [32] proposed a heterogeneous green behavior spreading model, which found that negative network information would hinder people’s participation in green behavior. Li et al. [33] compared government green low-carbon behavior, individual green low-carbon behavior driven by government, and individual green low-carbon behavior driven by anarchy, finding that individual green low-carbon behavior driven by government is the best choice to achieve economic development and welfare levels. In addition, green behavior, as an important part of the field of green development research, is receiving wide attention from Chinese researchers in environmental science and management science. Chinese research on green behavior has experienced the hotspot evolution process of early attention to consumer behavior, and then to the green purchase behavior green, purchase emotion, corporate green behavior, green technological innovation behavior and entangled stakeholder role in green behavior [27]. Research on green behavior is gradually becoming a focus of attention in Chinese academic circles. Therefore, in the context of the new era, green behavior not only involves people’s production and life, but also affects the theoretical research of researchers, and is closely related to the green development of industrial enterprises.
In 2017, the elaboration of green development in the report of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China pointed out the requirement for cleaner production. At the same time, the clean production behavior of enterprises has also received the attention of scholars [34,35]. Industrial enterprises are closely linked to the upstream and downstream of the supply chain in the process of production and operation. The green development of industrial enterprises cannot be avoided or influenced by the upstream and downstream of the supply chain. Some researchers have studied the practice of green supply chain management in enterprises [36,37]. Therefore, taking into account the characteristics of the green development of industrial enterprises, this paper comprehensively studies the predecessors’ research and puts forward the green development behavior of industrial enterprises, covering the clean production behavior of enterprises and the practice of green supply chain management of enterprises. Therefore, green development behavior of industrial enterprises has at least two distinctive features: First, industrial enterprise green development behavior belongs to the research category of green behavior, which is an enterprise’s behavior to protect the environment and is conducive to the development of the enterprise itself. Second, the industrial enterprises green development behavior is closely related to people’s food, clothing, housing and travel, involving all aspects of production and life. From the perspective of production, the industrial enterprises green development behavior is embodied in the clean production behavior of enterprises; From the perspective of supply chain management, industrial enterprises green development behavior is embodied in the practice of enterprises green supply chain management.
To sum up, the green development behavior of industrial enterprises in this paper refers to an environmental protection behavior adopted by industrial enterprises in order to achieve green development, including corporate clean production behavior and corporate green supply chain management practices. This kind of behavior belongs to the research field of green behavior, and it is closely related to people’s clothing, food, shelter and transportation. Moreover, in this process, some behavior of industrial enterprises related to the protection of the environment should be regarded as green development behavior of industrial enterprises, such as: green technology innovation, green procurement. The relevant theories of existing research on industrial enterprises green development behavior are vague. Based on the literature review, this paper deeply analyzes the interview materials of industrial enterprises through the grounded theory method, revealing the characteristics of the driving factors model of green development behavior and performance in industrial enterprises.

2.3. Enterprises Green Development Performance

The relationship between enterprises green development and performance is inseparable, and researchers have done a lot of research on this. Researchers generally believed that enterprise performance is related to economic level. e.g., Hu et al. [38] used per capita industrial output value to measure the development performance of enterprises; Wang et al. [39] applied the DEA-SBM undesired output model for calculating the efficiency value to measure the green development performance of the enterprises. In addition, some researchers have made discoveries in the field of enterprises green performance. Li et al. [40] argued that enterprises green performance is a result of energy-saving emission reduction and customer satisfaction improvement through technological innovations of enterprises. The study found that energy prices have a significant positive impact on enterprises green performance. Based on stakeholder theory, Jiang [41] used structural equation modeling to study the impact of external environmental pressures and opportunities on enterprises green performance. The study found that the perceptions of demand pressure, competitive pressures, policy opportunities, demand opportunities and competitive opportunities can promote enterprises green performance. Wei and Gu [42] found that commercial and government legitimacy have a significant effect on enterprises green performance. Researchers have made some progress in the research on the green development performance of enterprises, and these studies have recognized the relationship between green development and performance of enterprises through traditional theories. However, existing research does not reveal the green development performance of industrial enterprises from the perspective of theoretical construction, which is limited to the theoretical research on the green development performance of industrial enterprises. Therefore, in order to enrich the relevant theoretical research on the green development performance of industrial enterprises, this paper attempts to build the driving factor model of green development behavior and performance in industrial enterprises based on the grounded theory method.

2.4. Research Review

The importance of the green development of industrial enterprises has attracted the attention of academic circles and government departments at all levels, and the academic community has conducted corresponding research on the green development of enterprises. However, limited literatures take industrial enterprises as a sample of empirical research to explore the characteristics and laws of the green development. For industrial enterprises of different industries, different regions and different scales, due to their differences in the basis and vitality of green development, the path dependence of development, and the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in the process of green development, there are significant differences in behavioral choices and realization path of green development. Existing research does not systematically discuss the driving factors of green development behavior and performance in industrial enterprises according to the characteristic of industrial enterprises. In the context of the current new economic normal, Chinese industrial enterprises are in a critical period of transformation and development. How to build a systematic and organized development model to help industrial enterprises introduce and retain high-quality talents? How to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of policy support? It is of great significance to ensure the sustainability of policy support and play a substantial role for promoting the green development of industrial enterprises. In particular, the following points require special attention:
(1)
Related research of green development has achieved relatively mature results in the construction of the index evaluation system, but there are still deficiencies in the field of enterprise green development research. Relevant research is mainly distributed in the fields of corporate sustainable development, corporate social responsibility and green supply chain management.
(2)
The research on corporate environmental performance and corporate economic performance has achieved good results, but there are limited researches on other aspects of corporate performance, especially the theoretical research on the green development performance of industrial enterprises. Therefore, the measurement of the green development performance of industrial enterprises should include multiple dimensions such as economic performance, social performance and environmental performance.
(3)
Research on the green development of industrial enterprises has shown an upward trend year by year. At present, relevant research in China is not systematic and in-depth; the empirical research is especially scarce. The existing researches are mostly qualitative researches on the exploration of the factors affecting the green development of industrial enterprises, and there is currently no strong evidence. Compared with foreign countries, China has a large theoretical breakthrough space in this field. Although some foreign studies have made influential factors in the field of enterprises sustainable development, they cannot fully explain the factors and mechanism of the green development behavior in industrial enterprises.
In view of this, based on the characteristics of industrial enterprises and their environmental background, this paper attempts to construct a driving factors model of green development behavior and performance in industrial enterprises by the grounded theory method with in-depth interviews. This paper provides theoretical basis and decision-making reference for formulating the promotion strategy to promote the green development of industrial enterprises.

3. Method and Data

3.1. Research Method

The method of grounded theory explores and develops the theory behind phenomena through systematic data collection and analysis. Glaser and Strauss [43] pioneered the grounded theory in “The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research” in 1967. Since then, Strauss and Corbin [44,45] have refined the method in 1990 and 1998. Grounded theory is mainly used to discover logic rather than verify logic. The main ideas and assumptions of this method is as follows. First, the data are collected through in-depth research in a specific research context. Then, the concepts and categories are summarized and refined from the data and compared continuously. Finally, theoretical sampling is used to achieve theoretical saturation, which ultimately leads to new theories.
This study focuses on the driving factors of green development behavior and performance in industrial enterprises. At present, there is still a lack of mature theory in this field. Grounded theory has significant advantages in construction theory, which is recognized as the most scientific type of qualitative research [46]. Therefore, it is feasible to use the grounded theory to study the driving factors of green development behavior and performance in industrial enterprises.
Figure 1 shows the procedure for this study. From the perspective of research ideas, this paper uses grounded theory to sort out and analyze in-depth interview materials on the basis of raising questions and systematic literature analysis. Through the in-depth interview materials, open coding, axial coding, and selective coding are sequentially performed. After passing the theoretical saturation test, the theoretical model of driving factors of green development behavior and performance in industrial enterprises is finally constructed.

3.2. Data Sources

Research based on grounded theory should follow the principle of theoretical sampling [47]. Siggelkow pointed out that if the case sample has the typicality of “talking pig”, it is a representative sample and can meet the research needs [48]. To consider the typicality of the sample, this paper conducts theoretical sampling according to the following criteria: First, enterprises have a clear understanding of green development and sound operations. Second, the types of enterprises are diversified, covering large, medium and small industrial enterprises. Third, the respondents are the core employees and managers of the enterprises. Therefore, the samples selected in this paper are typical. From September 18 to November 31, 2018, in-depth interviews were conducted with industrial enterprises in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu Province. 52 interview recording materials were formed with a total length of 3180 min. After being converted into text, 501,562 words of recorded text materials were obtained. Fifty-two employees from Chinese industrial enterprises were interviewed, obtaining 52 recorded materials. After converting all the recorded materials into text materials, 52 data samples were processed. Table 1 gives demographic characteristics of the sample in terms of gender, age, level of education, position, and number of employees in the company.
Table 1 shows the following results: (1) The proportion of female and male in the sample was 42.31% and 57.69%, respectively, indicating that the male sample was slightly larger than the female sample; (2) The highest age distribution in the sample is 41–50 years old (accounting for 36.54%), followed by the 31–40 years old (30.77%) and 51–60 years old (21.15%), indicating that middle-aged and young people are main sample source; (3) The distribution of bachelor’s degrees was the highest in the sample (46.15%), followed by other educational background (23.08%) and associate degree (19.23%), indicating that bachelor’s degrees was the main source of the sample; (4) The highest job distribution in the sample is middle-level cadres (42.31%), followed by senior leaders (36.54%) and ordinary employees (21.15%), indicating that middle and high-level positions are the main source of the sample; (5) The highest number of employees in the sample is 20–300 (46.15%), followed by 1000 (26.92%) and 301–1000 (19.23%), indicating large, medium and small industrial enterprises as the main sample source.

4. Result Analysis

According to the design research method and analysis steps, the deep interview materials are encoded step by step to perform open coding, axial coding and selective coding. After obtaining the conceptual model, the theoretical saturation is tested, and the final theoretical model is formed and explained.

4.1. Open Coding

Open coding is a process in which the concepts are initially refined from a sample and classified into categories. First, “a” was label on the original statement in a large sample. Then, through the classification and abstraction of label, concept “aa” was preliminarily refined. Finally, by the classification and abstraction of concepts, category “A” was obtained. The sample is transformed into the same concept and category with the original material through conceptualization and categorization, in order to further refine and characterize the relationship between categories. Forty concepts and 10 categories were obtained after the open coding of 40 cases. An example of open coding is given in Table 2.
The initial concept is continuously merged and eliminated. Forty initial concepts are classified into 10 initial categories, which are policy and institutional environment, market environment, public supervision, corporate social performance, corporate economic performance, corporate environmental performance, clean production behavior, green supply chain management practice, corporate tangible resources and corporate intangible resources (Table 3).

4.2. Axial Coding

Axial coding is the process of categorizing and abstracting the initial categories into the main categories by exploring the intrinsic relationship between categories. According to the steps of axial coding, this paper classifies 10 initial categories into 4 main categories, which are external factors, internal factors, corporate green development behavior and corporate green development performance. Table 4 shows the main categories formed by axial coding.
Table 4 shows that the main categories of external factors consist of three initial categories: policy and institutional environment, market environment and public supervision. The main categories of internal factors consist of two initial categories: corporate tangible resources and corporate intangible resources. The main categories of corporate green development behavior consist of two initial categories: clean production behavior and green supply chain management practice. The main categories of corporate green development performance consist of three initial categories: corporate economic performance, corporate environmental performance and corporate social performance.

4.3. Selective Coding

Selective coding is the process of categorizing and abstracting the main categories into core categories by exploring the intrinsic relationship between the main categories. According to the steps of selective coding, this paper describes the relationship of each thread by focusing on the story line of “the cause of corporate green development-corporate green development behavior-the consequences of corporate green development”. Table 5 shows the core categories formed by selective coding.
Table 5 shows that the core categories of the cause of corporate green development includes two main categories: external factors and internal factors. The core category of corporate green development behavior is the main category of corporate green development behavior. The core category of the consequences of corporate green development is the main category of corporate green development performance. The driving factors model of green development behavior and performance in industrial enterprises is constructed according to the internal logic relationship among the three core categories of the cause of corporate green development, corporate green development behavior and the consequences of corporate green development (Figure 2).

4.4. Saturation Test

By using Nvivo 12 software, the theoretical saturation test of the remaining 12 case materials was performed to determine whether the theoretical model constructed above achieved theoretical saturation. The logic of the theoretical saturation test is to repeat the coding of the remaining samples according to the research steps of the grounded theory. When the data and information extracted by the sample are saturated and enough theory is obtained, the test is passed [49]. The results show that the extracted main categories, initial categories and the portrayal of relationship are clear and abundant. After the theoretical saturation test, there is no new category and relationship other than external factors, internal factors, corporate green development behavior, and corporate green development performance, and there is no new initial category among the four main categories. Therefore, it can be determined that the driving factors model of green development behavior and performance in industrial enterprises has reached saturation in theory.

4.5. The Structure of the Analysis

Through the three-level coding process of open coding, axial coding, selective coding and the theoretical saturation test, it is confirmed that the driving factors model this paper constructed is a theoretical saturated model. According to the model, the following three basic propositions can be obtained:
Proposition 1.
The green development of industrial enterprises exists in the organization in the form of specific behaviors.
This proposition relates to the concept of green development behavior of industrial enterprises. Based on the grounded theory of in-depth interview materials, this paper gives the definition of the green development behavior of industrial enterprises, i.e., the green development behavior of industrial enterprises is a green behavior with industrial enterprises as the organizational carrier. This behavior is the response of industrial enterprises to environmental protection and enterprise development, which exists through two specific behavioral expressions: clean production behavior and green supply chain management practice.
Proposition 2.
The cause of corporate green development has led to the emergence of green development behavior of industrial enterprises.
This proposition relates to the causes of the green development of industrial enterprises. This paper comprehensively and systematically summarizes the causes of the green development of industrial enterprises from the two aspects of external factors and internal factors. First, the reasons for the external factors are as follows. Through the study of the grounded theory of in-depth interview materials, the results show that the external factors are composed of three aspects: policy and institutional environment, market environment and public supervision. Second, the reasons for internal factors. Through the grounded theory of in-depth interview materials, the results show that the internal factors are composed of corporate tangible resources and corporate intangible resources.
Proposition 3.
The occurrence of green development behavior of industrial enterprises has led to the consequences of the green development of industrial enterprises, which is specifically embodied in the green development performance of industrial enterprises.
This proposition relates to the consequences of the green development of industrial enterprises. Through the grounded theory of in-depth interview materials, the results show that the specific form of the consequences of industrial enterprises green development is corporate green development performance, including corporate economic performance, corporate environmental performance and corporate social performance. In view of the lack of discussion on the consequences of industrial enterprises green development, the proposed proposition is a reasonable complement to the research on the green development of industrial enterprises.

5. Conclusions and Discussion

5.1. Conclusion

In order to reveal the driving factors of green development behavior and performance in industrial enterprise, this paper develops a theoretical model. Taking industrial enterprises as the research object, this paper used grounded theory to construct a theoretical model through deeply studies on the in-depth interview materials of 52 employees from Chinese industrial enterprises. This research has theoretical contributions. First, this research enriches the field of green development theory, enterprise development theory and green behavior research. Second, the driving factors model of green development behavior and performance in industrial enterprises constructed by this study provides a reference for subsequent research. Third, this research extends the scope of the grounded theory. In addition, this research has practical values. First, this research provides a reference for the government to develop a scientific, classified, step-by-step, local-adapted green guidance strategy. Second this study provides a reference for industrial enterprises to move toward green development.
The study found the following three conclusions:
(1)
The green development of industrial enterprises exists in the organization in the form of specific behaviors, i.e., clean production behavior and green supply chain management practice.
(2)
The cause of corporate green development has led to the emergence of green development behavior in industrial enterprises. The external factors of green development of industrial enterprises are composed of three aspects: policy and institutional environment, market environment and public supervision. The internal factors of green development of industrial enterprises are composed of corporate tangible resources and corporate intangible resources.
(3)
The occurrence of green development behavior of industrial enterprises has led to the consequences of the green development of industrial enterprises, which is specifically embodied in the green development performance of industrial enterprises including corporate economic performance, corporate environmental performance and corporate social performance.

5.2. Management Implications

The development of industrial enterprises is unsustainable without considering the protection of resources and environment. However, in fact, in the process of production and operation, industrial enterprises cannot consider only the protection of resources and environment without considering production profit. In order to achieve the relative balance between the development of the enterprise itself and the resources and environment, from the perspective of internal factors, industrial enterprises should use the tangible and intangible resources of enterprises to achieve active green development. In addition, considering the external factors role of policy in the process of the green development behavior of industrial enterprises, this paper proposes management inspiration from the following aspects.
(1)
It is recommended that the government formulate some targeted guiding policies for the green development behavior of industrial enterprises with different performances. On the one hand, it is recommended to strengthen government subsidies, provide more preferential project reporting opportunities, and appropriately reduce the frequency of supervision for industrial enterprises that perform well in corporate clean production practices and corporate green supply chain management practices. On the other hand, for industrial enterprises that perform poorly in corporate clean production behavior and corporate green supply chain management practices, it is recommended to increase the fines, reduce project reporting opportunities, and increase the frequency of supervision.
(2)
In order to strengthen the normative nature of green development behavior in industrial enterprises, it is recommended that the government formulate some universal guiding policies. These policies include the following: Through the construction, reconstruction and expansion of some schools, regular training courses on green development behavior of industrial enterprises can be organized; Encourage the media to report on the green development behavior of industrial enterprises and increase the public concern about the green development behavior of industrial enterprises; Encourage industrial enterprises to cooperate with research institutes to declare some scientific research projects for the green development behavior of industrial enterprises, and establish a special research fund project management organization to manage these research projects.

5.3. Research Limitations and Future Prospects

Although the driving factors model of green development behavior and performance in industrial enterprises is constructed by the grounded theory method, there are still some limitations in this research. The theoretical model constructed in this paper only represents Chinese industrial enterprises, and the model has not been tested in other types of enterprises in China or other countries. In addition, the theoretical model constructed from the perspective of qualitative research has not yet passed the empirical test. Therefore, future research should improve the shortcomings of this paper. In the future, further studies can be conducted in the following areas: (1) Test the theoretical model proposed in this paper in other types of Chinese enterprises; (2) Test the theoretical model proposed in this paper in other countries or regions; (3) Explore the interaction between multi-agents in the green development process of industrial enterprises through simulation; (4) The AHP or other decision analysis method is used to further study the management decision-making problems in the green development process of industrial enterprises.

Author Contributions

This paper was written by X.L. in collaboration with all co-authors. The funding and the research thought were carried out by J.D. Data was collected by X.L. The formal was analyzed by X.L. and H.L.

Funding

This research was funded by Special Funds of the National Social Science Fund of China, grant number 18VSJ038.

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to acknowledge the professionals who collaborated on this study. We would also like to thank all the reviewers who provided suggestions to improve this paper.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest. The funders had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to publish the results.

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Figure 1. The logic of grounded theory research.
Figure 1. The logic of grounded theory research.
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Figure 2. The structure of driving factors for green development behavior and performance in industrial enterprises.
Figure 2. The structure of driving factors for green development behavior and performance in industrial enterprises.
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Table 1. Demographic characteristics of the sample.
Table 1. Demographic characteristics of the sample.
CharacteristicNo. of ParticipantsPercentage
Gender
Female2242.31%
Male3057.69%
Age
21–30 years old59.62%
31–40 years old1630.77%
41–50 years old1936.54%
51–60 years old1121.15%
61 years old or older11.92%
Level of education
Associate degree1019.23%
Bachelor’s degrees2446.15%
Master’s degrees611.54%
Other1223.08%
Position
Ordinary employee1121.15%
Middle-level cadre2242.31%
Senior leadership1936.54%
No. of employees in the company
Less than 20 people47.69%
20–300 people2446.15%
301–1000 people1019.23%
More than 1000 people1426.92%
Table 2. Open coding example (part).
Table 2. Open coding example (part).
Primitive StatementInitial ConceptInitial Category
a1. From a business perspective, we must abide by the law and national requirements. a10. Environmental protection is becoming more and more strict with us, right? The national’s anti-pollution situation is very strict now, and national inspectors have been supervising. Now we often report the plan to headquarters, and headquarters leaders are very supportive of our work.aa1. Government Regulation (a1, a10)A1. Policy and Institutional Environment (aa1, aa2, aa3)
a2. There must be policies for companies with ultra-low emissions. Because I have devoted a lot of manpower, material resources and financial resources to improve the technology, and the government should extend different treatment to different enterprises and formulate policies. a12. The policy is so stipulated. I can’t control whether other people shut down their business. Anyway, I will guarantee that I will operate normally.aa2. Policies and regulations (a2, a12)
……
a13. In order to enhance the competitiveness of the company, we are going to buy some more environmentally friendly equipment in the next three years, and we hope to do better in the treatment of waste gas and waste water. a16. At present, if we do not guarantee environmental protection and safety, the enterprise can hardly develop. Moreover, there is a problem with the survival of the company! Therefore, only by doing a good job in environmental protection and safety, there are opportunities for enterprise development.aa4. Investor attitude (a13, a16)A2. Market environment (aa4, aa5, aa6)
a19. Many of our customers come from the wind power industry, and our products are also sold to some downstream companies. a21. At present, the market is basically stable, and some of products are sold to neighboring cities, because there are quite a few companies that use sintered bricks in those places.aa5. Customer and consumer attitude (a19, a21)
……
a23. The bad environmental behavior of enterprises is often exposed and photographed by the media. a26. One TV show introduced the boss of a private enterprise, he was probably fined more than 80 million.aa7. Media supervision (a23, a26)A3. Public supervision (aa7, aa8, aa9, aa10)
a29. As long as our company produces an irritating taste in the production process, residents will report it to the government. a31. If the residents report the facts, the government personnel can go to the scene to check. If there is indeed an odor on the spot, the residents are not false reports; if the residents report maliciously, I think they should be treated differently.aa8. Resident supervision (a29, a31)
……
a25. The city government often visits our company, such as leading a meeting, attracting investment or asking the big bosses to visit here. After the promotion of corporate reputation, many people came to visit us. a29. Our company is pursuing sustainable development. We are not prepared to close the company after making money. This concept has received strong support from investors.aa11. Corporate image performance (a25, a29)A4. Corporate social performance (aa11, aa12)
a33. Among the peers, our company gives higher treatment and higher stability. Therefore, workers prefer our company. a39. Since our company should do everything, there have been no similar complaints in the past two years. In addition, our company is doing a good job in all aspects.aa12. Stakeholder evaluation (a33, a39)
……
a58. If the government asks our company to stop production, then the cost will be 15 million yuan per day. a67. Don’t talk about anything without economic benefits. If all the factories are shut down, everyone will not produce them, and the ecological environment will be restored soon. But in this case, how to solve the problem of eating? As the CEO of the company, economic benefits must be considered. However, under the overall policy situation, the economic benefits of our company must be concessions. a71. For companies, the first consideration is economic efficiency. Because companies without economic benefits cannot survive.aa13. Operating cost performance (a58, a67, a71)A5. Corporate economic performance (aa13, aa14, aa15, aa16)
a52. I have to lose production. For example, we reduced production of more than 20 tons of cement from January to August last year. In fact, the survival of our cement enterprises depends on the amount, and the annual cement output of our factory is about 4 million tons. a63. The price of this type of brick is more expensive than the price of aerated concrete blocks because of its complicated production process and the high number of processes, resulting in high production costs.aa14. Material cost performance (a52, a63)
……
a57. Sewage should be the main pollutant of our company, because all our production links are related to drainage. a64 The main pollutant of our company is dust, and nothing else. The production process of material injection is inevitably dusty. a73. For the fermentation industry, solid waste such as vinegar granules will be produced during the production process.aa17. Waste water, waste residue, waste gas in industrial (a57, a64, a73)A6. Corporate environmental performance (aa17, aa18, aa19)
a59. We cause less environmental pollution, and the biggest problem at present is the pollution caused by dust. If we can solve this problem, our company will have no pollution problems. a69. The products produced by our company basically have no serious environmental problems. Unlike the steel smelting industries, we mainly complete the adjustment of product performance and produce some cutting-edge products.aa18. Environmental risk (a59, a69)
……
a76. The measures of our company are actually similar to those of ordinary chemical companies, and they are done in accordance with the requirements of environmental protection. For example, the exhaust gas is absorbed and burned by activated carbon, and the final emissions are carbon dioxide and water. In order to meet government standards, we have deepened the wastewater. a83. We discharge the sewage into the sewage treatment plant where the sewage is concentrated and enter its pipe network. a87. We protect the environment in accordance with national standards.aa20. Compliance behavior (a76, a83, a87)A7. Clean production behavior (aa20, aa21, aa22, aa23)
a85. For the green development of our company, on the one hand, it is to increase the investment in equipment and facilities; on the other hand, it is to invest in the employees in the factory, because the employees are the main body of the operation. a84. I can’t remember what kind of equipment I use. Anyway, I only know that our company has spent money of more than 50 million yuan in one time.aa21. Purchasing behavior (a85, a84)
……
a82. The waste produced by our company is mainly vinegar residue. And there is a company comes to our factory to recycle vinegar residue as fertilizer. a95. Our company is now recycling resources and working with others to recycle block bricks and foam bricks. We have signed an agreement with the partner, who recycles our company’s waste and processed it into bricks.aa24. Inter-enterprise resource recycling behavior (a82, a95)A8. Green Supply Chain Management Practice (aa24, aa25, aa26, aa27, aa28)
a88. The technology we use is the technology of a Beijing company. That is to say, we buy the technology of other companies. a94. We still need to rely on third parties to help us deal with these technical problems.aa25. Inter-enterprise technology sharing behavior (a88, a94)
……
a91. The current state of our company is not too bad, and the most difficult part is the lack of funding. a96. From the perspective of business operations, first, I must ensure the stability of wages and the wages of employees will rise every year. If my business does not develop, how can I guarantee the salary increase of my employees? Second, I want to invest in return. From 2008 to the present, the cost of almost all resource elements is rising. If my company does not develop, how can it survive?aa29. Capital capacity (a91, a96)A9 Corporate tangible resources (aa29, aa30, aa31, aa32)
a98. Our company lacks people who have been stable here for a long time. a109. Our company now has nearly 90 employees and an estimated one-third of them have a master’s degree. At least most people have a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. Therefore, the talent pool of our company is very sufficient.aa30. Human Resources (a98, a109)
…………
a104. The daily inspection reports and disposal methods of our company’s production process will be publicized on the Internet. a107. Our company has security checks every year and employees are ensured regular medical checks. No problems have been identified so far, because in the production of sprayed materials, cases of occupational diseases have not occurred.aa33. Corporate rules and regulations (a104, a107)A10. Corporate Intangible resources (aa33, aa34, aa35, aa36, aa37, aa38, aa39, aa40)
a105. Our company has research and development business. Up to now, we have applied for five invention patents. We are not only cooperating with universities for research and development. Since the customer has raised the need for research and development, we also cooperate directly with our customers. In the process of research and development, we follow the customer’s requirements step by step, and the final results are also very good. a121. Although we have encountered some technical problems, we can still solve them under normal circumstances.aa34. Technical skills (a105, a121)
……
Table 3. Open coding analysis process.
Table 3. Open coding analysis process.
Category ConnotationInitial Category
Government regulation; Policies and regulationsPolicy and institutional environment
Investor attitude; Customer and consumer attitudeMarket environment
Supervision of community; Media supervision; Resident supervision; Supervision of non-governmental organizationPublic supervision
Corporate image performance; Stakeholder evaluationCorporate social performance
Operating cost performance; Energy resources consumption performance; Environmental cost; Material cost performanceCorporate economic performance
Consumption for hazardous materials; Environmental risk; Waste water, waste residue, waste gas in industrialCorporate environmental performance
Compliance behavior; Brand Promotion; design behavior; Purchasing behaviorClean production behavior
Inter-enterprise resource recycling behavior; Inter-enterprise technology sharing behavior; Interfirm cooperation; Sharing product information across enterprises; Supplier adaptive behaviorGreen supply chain management practice
Organization; Capital capacity; Production equipment; Human ResourcesCorporate tangible resources
Marketing capability; Cognition level; Corporate rules and regulations; Types of ownership; Corporate image; Corporate culture; Manager’s attitude; Technical skillsCorporate Intangible resources
Table 4. Main categories formed by axial coding.
Table 4. Main categories formed by axial coding.
Category ConnotationMain Category
Policy and institutional environment, market environment, public supervisionExternal factors
Corporate tangible resources, corporate Intangible resourcesInternal factors
Clean production behavior, green supply chain management practiceCorporate green development behavior
Corporate economic performance, corporate environmental performance, corporate social performanceCorporate green development performance
Table 5. Core categories formed by selective coding.
Table 5. Core categories formed by selective coding.
Main CategoryCore Category
External factorsThe cause of corporate green development
Internal factors
Corporate green development behaviorCorporate green development behavior
Corporate green development performanceThe consequences of corporate green development

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Li, X.; Du, J.; Long, H. Green Development Behavior and Performance of Industrial Enterprises Based on Grounded Theory Study: Evidence from China. Sustainability 2019, 11, 4133. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11154133

AMA Style

Li X, Du J, Long H. Green Development Behavior and Performance of Industrial Enterprises Based on Grounded Theory Study: Evidence from China. Sustainability. 2019; 11(15):4133. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11154133

Chicago/Turabian Style

Li, Xingwei, Jianguo Du, and Hongyu Long. 2019. "Green Development Behavior and Performance of Industrial Enterprises Based on Grounded Theory Study: Evidence from China" Sustainability 11, no. 15: 4133. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11154133

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