Environmental Innovation and Networks: The influence of network and interaction characteristics on environmental innovative performance of companies
Werff, M.E. van der
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Companies involved in environmental innovation (EI) can be instrumental in achieving a more sustainable society. These companies are often confronted with complex and disciplinary knowledge that lies outside their own core business. This takes them to interacting with other actors in their networks. Though the relevance of networks and interaction has been researched in literature, still little is known about the specific characteristics of these concepts and their influence on environmental innovations. This research investigated the relation between network characteristics (network size and cognitive diversity) and interaction characteristics (interaction frequency, formality, informality) and environmental innovative performance. Additionally, the moderating effect of absorptive capacity on the first relation (network characteristics on EI performance) was taken into account. This was researched for the technological industry in The Netherlands, for the period of 2011 - 2013. An online questionnaire was used to collect the data after which a multiple OLS regression analysis was executed to investigate the relations. The most important findings were that for companies involved in environmental product innovations larger networks are beneficial to EI performance. Diversity of partners, interaction frequency, and formal interaction were found not to be important for those companies. Informality was shown to have a negative effect on EI performance. For companies involved in environmental process innovations larger networks are also more beneficial. Diversity of partners can be discouraged. Frequent interaction can result in higher EI performance. Formal interaction is found not to be important. Informal interaction was again shown to have a negative effect on EI performance. These findings show that there are significant differences between product and process innovations, that could be researched further. Moreover, the context of environmental innovation provided some interesting differences from what was expected based on regular innovation. This indicates that this new context must be taken into account when researching environmental innovation.