CLIMA Lunch Seminar with Michele Acciaro

Table with a computer and some water and a sandwich

Purpose and Positioning: The Deployment of Environmental Narratives for Strategic Gain (in the Container Shipping Industry)

About the seminar

This study delves into the role of collective environmental narratives in shaping firms’ strategies. Through a panel qualitative comparative analysis of thirty global companies collected over a decade, this research reveals the transactional nature of environmental actions, where true purpose is a rarity, and firms, especially market leaders, utilize environmental narratives as strategic tools for differentiation and consolidation of their market positions. The theoretical framework is informed by Dalpiaz & Di Stefano, exploring the transformative influence of narratives on organizational strategies and behaviors. The empirical context is provided by the international container shipping industry, which is characterized by substantial environmental impacts, global reach, and homogeneous services in a business-to-business setting.
The findings indicate that environmental narratives can be effectively used as a positioning device when meticulously constructed to raise standards in the industry, allowing market leaders to use them as levers to consolidate their positions and gain competitive advantage. My research, beyond the quantification of the potential environmental benefits of climate action, highlights the significance of environmental narratives as a strategic tool, shaped by the actions and perspectives of market leaders, regulatory landscapes, and customer needs. These narratives impact organizational culture and strategic directions, compelling firms to align their strategies with prevailing market needs and legal and ethical demands.
This research provides insights into how collective sectoral narratives, often transactional in nature, are strategically employed by firms, particularly market leaders, to differentiate themselves and reinforce their market positions, but how they can also contribute to sectoral changes. It underscores the strategic importance of environmental narratives in facilitating firms in adopting and implementing environmentally responsible practices in a sector marked by technological changes and environmental impacts. The insights are useful for leaders, strategists, and policymakers aiming to understand and leverage the strategic potential of collective narratives in enhancing environmental and sustainability transition in a business-to-business context.

About the speaker

Billede af Michele Accario

Michele is Associate Professor at the Department of Strategy and Innovation of the Copenhagen Business School, which he joined in January 2022. His research interests are sustainability and innovation, with a particular focus on shipping and ports.

Until December 2021 he was Associate Professor at the Department of Operations and Technology and the Director of the Hapag-Lloyd Center for Shipping and Global Logistics (CSGL) at Kühne Logistics University (KLU) in Hamburg. He joined KLU in 2013 as Assistant Professor. In his function, he managed a small team with the objective of advancing research on container transport, ports, terminals, and shipping at the intersection of transport economics, supply chain management, sustainability, policy and business studies. Between 2016 and 2018 he was also Head of the Logistics Department and between 2014 and 2020 the Equality and Diversity Officer for the university. Before his appointment at KLU, Michele held the position of Senior Researcher – Green Shipping at the Research and Innovation department of Det Norske Veritas AS (DNV) in Høvik, Norway. From 2004 until 2010, he was deputy director and researcher at the Center for Maritime Economics and Logistics (MEL)/Erasmus SmartPort of Erasmus University Rotterdam.

He has a BSc and an MSc (cum laude) in Statistics and Economics from ‘La Sapienza’ University of Rome, an MSc in Economics from Erasmus University Rotterdam (with a focus on Maritime Economics and Logistics, for which he was awarded the NOL/APL Prize for Student Excellence), and a PhD in Logistics from Erasmus University Rotterdam. Michele was awarded the Young Researcher Best Paper Prize at the International Association of Maritime Economists (IAME) Annual Conference in Cyprus in 2005 and the Best Reviewer Prize at IAME 2018 in Mombasa. He was the secretary of IAME between 2020 and 2022. He was honored with the best reviewer award in the International Management (IM) Division and the Organizations and Natural Environment Division (ONE) at the AOM annual conference in 2023.


Venue: University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Law, Justitia meeting room (Meeting box) 2nd floor, 7A.2.04, South Campus, Njalsgade 76, DK-2300 Copenhagen S and online on Zoom (link will be provided after registration).

Time: 12:00-13:00.

Registration: For participation in the event please use this registration form no later than 5 March 2024 12:00.