36th EGOS Colloquium
Organizing for a Sustainable Future:
Responsibility, Renewal & Resistance
University of Hamburg
July 2–4, 2020
36th EGOS Colloquium
July 2–4, 2020
Climate change is the major environmental challenge facing humankind. There is widespread consensus among scientists
that humans are causing climate change, with catastrophic negative consequences (Pachauri et al., 2014; USGCRP, 2017). Among
academics, practitioners and policy makers alike, there is increasing recognition that businesses can, should, and have the
power, to play a critical part in addressing this grand societal challenge (Hoffman, 2018). And yet, large corporations have
traditionally been either complicit in their inaction or slow to move, often disagreeing on the scope and scale of climate
change (Howard-Grenville et al., 2014).
As such, the lack of definitive climate leadership by incumbent organizations has paved the way for “sustainable” or “environmental” entrepreneurs to adopt a more prominent role in climate action (Dean & McMullen, 2007; Lenox & York, 2011). Extant research has shown that these entrepreneurs, who seek to address environmental problems while taking advantage of market opportunities (York & Venkataraman, 2010), can play an important role in at least three ways:
First, they can help bring more ecologically friendly products and services to market, in ways that are not being addressed by incumbent organizations (Georgallis et al., 2018; Georgallis & Durand, 2017; Meek et al., 2010; Russo, 2003; Sine & Lee, 2009; Vedula et al., 2018).
Second, they can play a crucial role in helping existing industries transition towards more sustainable practices. For instance, a recent study by York and colleagues showed that small businesses were critical to the adoption and diffusion of environmental standards by actors upstream in the value chain in the commercial construction industry (York et al., , 2018). Interestingly, the authors also found that these small businesses had a larger impact than policies put into place by local governments, and were also able to bridge the cultural divide around climate change – they were equally effective in communities with both a “pro-market” and a “pro-community” cultural orientation.
And third, entrepreneurs can play an important institutional role in combating climate change by creating new “moral markets” – those that represent a melding of social and economic value creation (Conger et al., 2018; Georgallis & Lee, 2019).
In addition to entrepreneurship scholars, researchers in adjacent fields
have also become increasingly interested in the role that entrepreneurial action can play in mitigating or adapting to the
effects of climate change. For example, organization theorists have increasingly focused on how non-market actors that support
environmental causes (e.g. environmental NGOs) can act as institutional entrepreneurs shaping the emergence of sustainable
industries (Pacheco et al., 2014; Sine & Lee, 2009), as well as on how firms respond to such stakeholder pressures (Hiatt
et al., 2015; Marquis et al., 2016). Strategy scholars have looked at the technological choices of entrants into industries
such as the solar photovoltaic industry to better understand the strategic decision-making of new “environmental” ventures
(Durand & Georgallis, 2018; Kapoor & Furr, 2015). And finance scholars have begun to examine how governments, institutional
investors, as well the crowd can fund new ventures that choose to enter into sustainable industries (Cumming et al., 2016;
Cumming et al., 2017).
The diversity of scholarly research examining such acts of “environmental” entrepreneurship has led to a rich body of empirical evidence on this important phenomenon. But while the range of perspectives is welcome, the plethora of labels and meanings attached to such endeavors often hampers the accumulation of insights and opportunities for theoretical integration. This sub-theme thus proposes to bring together scholars drawing on these or other approaches to understand entrepreneurial activity that contributes to the mitigation of, or adaptation to, climate change. The goal is to advance scholarly dialogue and instigate building better and more unified theory.
Questions and themes addressed in this sub-theme on entrepreneurship and climate change include but are not limited to:
What is the process of market formation in these industry sectors that seek to combat climate change? What are the patterns of collective action among entrepreneurs or between entrepreneurs and supporting (e.g. NGOs) or opposing (e.g. incumbents) actors?
How do both formal and informal institutions constrain or enable “environmental” entrepreneurship? What is the role of governments (local and national), and how do these interact with more decentralized social institutions?
Given the historical inaction by incumbents on climate change, does corporate entrepreneurship have a role to play in addressing climate change? Is there a different role for established corporations than for startups? More broadly, under what conditions can and do incumbents participate in addressing climate change?
What are the motivations for becoming an “environmental” entrepreneur? For example, do these entrepreneurs differ from “conventional” entrepreneurs in terms of background, identity, or skills; if so, how and what implications does it have for entrepreneurship research?
How might we effectively finance “environmental” entrepreneurs? Given the traditionally capital intensive nature of this sector, to what extent do new forms of financing (e.g. crowdfunding) have a role to play?
What are the business models that are needed for these ventures to survive, and subsequently thrive?
Conceptual explorations and literature reviews of the formation of sustainable industries and their role in broader economic change are also welcome.