Organizing Means–Ends Decoupling: Core–Compartment Separations in Fast Fashion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Means–ends decoupling, the institutionally induced implementation of ineffective practices, has become increasingly common. Extant theory suggests that means–ends decoupling has real consequences, which makes it unstable and difficult for organizations to sustain. Yet little is known of how, and with what outcomes, firms organize such means–ends decoupling. We examine organizing via multiple qualitative and longitudinal case studies of how Swedish fast fashion retailers implement and manage the collection of used garments. We find that firms combine two organizational arrangements: structural and temporal core–compartment separations, which mitigate consequences of means–ends decoupling by obscuring and justifying efficiency gaps. Thereby we provide a theoretical explanation for how means–ends decoupling can persist over time.


External organisations
  • University of Gothenburg
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Business Administration


  • circular economy, corporate sustainability, decoupling, fashion, institutional theory
Original languageEnglish
JournalBusiness and Society
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2021
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Funding Information: The authors declared the following potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: We acknowledge the financial support of Sweden’s innovation agency Vinnova (Grant 2016-03496_6), the Swedish Energy Agency (Grant 44087-1), Kamprad Family Foundation Entrepreneurship, Research, and Charity, (Grant 20160063) and Sweden’s research council for sustainable development FORMAS (Grant 2019-00520). Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s) 2021. Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.