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Environmental management and organisations
Environmental management and organisations

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8.3 Purpose

Given their diversity, it is almost impossible to describe all the different purposes of an organisation. But at the most fundamental level, organisations exist to enable people to achieve a set of objectives that would not normally be achievable by an individual in isolation. Understanding the purpose of an organisation is therefore central to understanding what an organisation does and how it does it.

How do you begin to determine the purpose of an organisation? Start by completing Activity 9. For this activity, you will need to select an organisation that is well known to you in some way. Perhaps you are a member of the organisation or you use its services regularly. You will not be expected to know its detailed operations and it does not have to be a business organisation. It could be an organisation you listed in Activity 8. As you will be using the same organisation in other activities throughout this free course, it is worth taking a few minutes to choose.

Activity 9 Purpose and perspective

After choosing an organisation that is well known to you, note down the purpose of the organisation from your perspective.

Now note down the purpose of the same organisation from the perspective of three other organisations that might be linked to it.


I have chosen my child’s school. In my view, the purpose of the school is to provide an excellent and enjoyable education for its pupils.

  1. From the perspective of exam-setting organisations, the purpose of the school is to prepare pupils for exams and host examinations in exam conditions.
  2. From the perspective of Government, the purpose of the school is to provide education to national standards.
  3. From the perspective of teaching unions, the purpose of the school is to ensure teachers are paid an appropriate salary, supported and develop their careers.

You can see from my answer that the purpose of the school could vary considerably depending on the perspective of the observer (whether an individual or another organisation).

Your answers to Activity 9 should help you understand that the purpose of an organisation is dependent on whom or what is ascribing that purpose. Understanding that the purpose of an organisation is observer-dependent is important.

Although a focus on purpose gives us considerable insight into what an organisation might be doing, the diversity of organisation types (e.g. profit, public, voluntary, etc.) presents us with a major challenge in terms of environmental management. How can you make sense of an organisation in order to determine its relationship to its environment? One way of answering this is to gain a better understanding of the structure and processes of an organisation.