Abstract for: Green, Simple, and Profitable: The Paradox of Failed Best Practices in University Building Maintenance

Many green practices are widely understood and known to bring benefits beyond reduced energy use. Yet, organizations often fail to implement them. What explains these failures? Past theory suggests that adoption and implementation will be most likely to fail when practices are difficult to recognize given current competencies or organizational structures, require complex knowledge, or when the organization faces short term pressures that force it to abandon implementation early. Here, we present a case study of an organization that fails to adopt an important best practice despite the fact that the benefits and steps toward implementation are well understood and external short term pressures are minimal. We find that instead, short term pressures are created entirely internally by the structure of relations across organizational boundaries, causing individuals to misperceive the best practice as a cost that can be put off rather than an investment with positive future returns. Thus, even the simplest of innovations and improvements can be stymied by dynamics internal to an organization.