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
There is increasing evidence that the world is heading toward an environmental crisis. Human perturbations have destabilized
Earth-system processes at planetary scale (Rockström et al., 2009; Steffen et al., 2015). Growing population adds demand for
natural resources globally: by 2030, water and food demand are to increase by over 30% (IWMI, 2007; FAO, 2012), energy demand
by 45% (IEA, 2008). Instead of climate change, the discourse has shifted to climate collapse (IPCC, 2018). All the while,
technological change is speeding up the introduction of artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning. At the level
of nation states, protectionism appears to be making a re-entry with trade wars and exits from trade blocs under negotiation.
The question is: what kind of a future are we building? Put more bluntly, is there a future for humankind? Overall,
what does this imply for organizations (Etzion, 2007)?
There is ongoing debate about the definition of sustainability (UNGSP, 2012; Steffen et al., 2015b) and the means of evaluating an individual’s and organization’s degree of sustainability (Dyllick & Muff, 2015; Boons & Lüdeke-Freund, 2013; Geels, 2011). According to Labuschagne, Brent and Erck (2005), “business sustainability entails the incorporation of the objectives of sustainable development, namely social equity, economic efficiency and environmental performance, into a company’s operational practices”. Strong sustainability refers to adapting to the demands of the Earth, respecting the resilience of ecosystems by decreasing consumption, rather than adjusting natural resources to suit human needs (Hediger, 1999; Williams & Millington, 2004).
In the corporate responsibility literature, the path toward strong sustainability is seen as a process from business-as-usual, through refined shareholder management and triple bottom line management, toward truly sustainable business (Dyllick & Muff, 2015). Elkington (2007) argues that effective, long-term partnerships are crucial for companies in transitioning toward sustainability. These partnerships can be between the public and private sectors, between companies, or between companies and groups campaigning for a broad range of triple bottom line objectives (Elkington, 2007: 37), such as local communities, social movements, social enterprises, or non-governmental organizations.
Organizations can pursue sustainability via various types of equity and non-equity partnerships. Classic knowledge has it that firms and NGOs form strategic alliances, joint ventures, outsourcing or franchising arrangements, merge or acquire, enter networks to obtain resources, capabilities, knowledge or skills to survive in an increasingly competitive market (Cartwright et al. 2012; Parmegiani & Rivera-Santos, 2011; Barringer & Harrison, 2000; Ring & van de Ven, 1994; Borys & Jemison, 1989). In many inter-firm relationships competitive strategy is paralleled with cooperative strategy, sometimes simultaneously (Gnyawali & Madhavan, 2001; Gnyawali et al., 2016).
In the realm of inter-organizational relationships, the bulk of extant research has focused on traditional competitive markets, in so doing largely neglecting their role in building firms’ non-market activities (Ahammad et al., 2017). It is unclear what are the dynamics in partnerships and M&As enabling sustainable value creation toward the involved organizations and their stakeholders, including the society at large. What is more, previous research on interorganizational relations focuses on the partnering activity of multinational companies (Child et al., 2001; Lambell et al., 2008). Recently, a rise in anti-globalisation movement has put multinational companies in the limelight in terms of their ethical behaviour and sustainability stance. However, the role of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and non-profit organizations (NGOs) and their interorganizational activity remains poorly understood and under-researched (Lambell et al., 2008).
This sub-theme appreciates forms and dynamics of interorganizational relationships and cross-sector partnerships (Selsky & Parker, 2005) between different organization types (van Wijk et al., 2013; Delbridge & Edwards, 2008) in the building of sustainable futures. Sustainable futures refer to economic, environmental and social sustainability to the partnering organizations and their stakeholders. An interesting consideration is, whether nature, i.e. the environment, can be considered a stakeholder (Hart & Dowell, 2007; Hart, 1995).
We invite papers that explore
the role of interorganizational relationships in promoting and enabling organizational, interorganizational, and societal sustainability, and
how interorganizational relationships make organizations more resilient to uncertainty and unexpected changes in the environment.
We look forward to receiving papers focused on, but not limited to the following topics:
Motivations for building interorganizational relationships (contractual partnerships, strategic alliances, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions) in the pursuit of sustainable futures
Forms and dynamics of network creation, partnering (contractual partnerships, strategic alliances, joint ventures), merging and acquiring in the pursuit of sustainable futures
Differences between small and medium-sized organizations and multinational companies as they pursue sustainability-related partnerships
Differences between public, private and third-sector organizations as they pursue sustainability-related partnerships
Interorganizational partnerships in the solving of grand challenges and today’s wicked global problems, including but not limited to climate change, circular economy, water shortage, energy, etc.
Performance management and performance effects of partnering (contractual partnerships, strategic alliances, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions) in the pursuit of sustainable futures
Methods to study interorganizational relationships in the pursuit of sustainable futures
The role of strategic alliances and M&As in causing social, economic and environmental disruption