Abigail Abrash Walton, Ph.D., is a 2016 graduate of the PhD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University
Dr. Abigail Abrash Walton [center] with Dissertation Committee Chair, Dr. Laura Morgan Roberts [left], and Dissertation Committee Member, Dr. Carol Baron [right], at her Dissertation Defense, Santa Barbara, May 2016.
- Laura Morgan Roberts, Ph.D., Committee Chair
- Carol Baron, Ph.D., Committee Member
- Niki Harré, Ph.D., Committee Member
- James O. Prochaska, Ph.D., External Reader
Climate change is one of the most significant dynamics of our time.The predominant contributor to climate change is combustion of fossil fuels by humans.This study deepened understanding of organizational leaders’ role in enacting one approach to addressing climate change:institutional fossil fuel divestment.The study used a qualitative research design to explore U.S.-based foundation leaders’ readiness to pursue fossil fuel divestment by their institutions.The study examined leaders’ motivations and actions in pursuing divestment, while simultaneously exercising their fiduciary duty to steward institutional assets.Research questions focused on the divestment behavior change process and the outcomes of divestment on leaders and their organizations.Data collection and analysis were derived from two datasets:34 foundation divestment commitment statements and semi-structured interviews with 18 foundation leaders.The study highlighted leaders’ intentional actions, outside the norms of the philanthropic sector and corporate governance, to enact their values and beliefs through divestment, as a form of socially responsible investing.Leaders’ pursuit of divestment constituted mission-aligned positive deviance.Findings suggested that leaders of mission-driven institutions can benefit by taking more direct responsibility for institutional investing in ways that are consistent with institutional mission.Doing so, they may unleash new energy that enhances the well-being of the organization and its members and sparks innovation in the financial services sector.They may also experience higher levels of satisfaction, pride, happiness, and engagement with their organizational roles.This study extends scholarship on divestment, foundations as change agents, leadership and positive deviance, psychology of climate change, pro-environmental behavior (PEB), socially responsible investing, and the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change (TTM).Implications for theory and practice:(a) develops models of mission-aligned investing and of mission-aligned leadership, (b) builds on Stern’s PEB typology to include investing; (c) extends the TTM to include a change leadership dimension; and (d) provides analysis that can inform practitioner-designed behavior change initiatives and that may inform and inspire other institutional leaders to address climate change through institutional fossil fuel divestment.This dissertation is available in open-access at OhioLink ETD Center, www.ohiolink.edu/etd and AURA:Antioch University Repository and Archive, http://aura.antioch.edu/
Abrash Walton, Abigail, "Positive Organizational Leadership and Pro-Environmental Behavior: The Phenomenon of Institutional Fossil Fuel Divestment" (2016). Dissertations & Theses. 269.
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