Sub-theme 15: [SWG] Organization Studies in the Anthropocene: System Change, Not Climate Change

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Paul S. Adler
University of Southern California, USA
John M. Jermier
University of South Florida, USA
Daniel Nyberg
The University of Newcastle, Australia

Call for Papers

The general theme of the 37th EGOS Colloquium 2021 is “Organizing for an Inclusive Society”, and this sub-theme – the first in our four-year cycle as the new EGOS Standing Working Group 15 (SWG) – takes as its starting point the observation that any hope for an inclusive society depends on our ability to resolve the climate emergency (Dunlop & Spratt, 2019). Recent research results tell us we have only a decade until self-reinforcing feedback loops and cumulative effects bring us to various tipping points in planetary systems and to the eventual collapse of civilizations as we know them (Aengenheyster et al., 2018; IPPC, 2018; Steffen et al., 2018). Moreover, the climate emergency is part of a wider environmental emergency associated with (among other risky and accelerating changes) significant disruption of the nitrogen cycle and massive loss of biodiversity (Steffen et al., 2015).
To date, the bulk of organization and management scholarship on environmental issues has been focused on changes in firm-level and individual-level behavior. Climate change and the other threats to environmental sustainability that we see today certainly pose challenges for individual organizations, and addressing these threats will certainly require changes to individual behavior; but these threats cannot plausibly be overcome by the action of individual organizations and individual actors alone (see similar critiques offered by Banerjee, 2011, 2012; Jermier et al., 2006; Wittneben et al., 2012). These threats require action by governments and supra-national inter-government agencies. Our sub-theme aims to stimulate scholarship on the challenges and opportunities at that system level.
The environmental crisis is, in this sense, similar to other “grand challenges” whose scale and urgency have pushed numerous thought-leaders in our field to urge us to broaden our focus (Eisenhardt et al., 2016). To understand and respond to the climate emergency, we need to focus on the political-economic-cultural system within which firms and individuals operate, and on how this system can be mobilized to respond to the environmental challenge. Such research will require a broadening of our intellectual resources. Where our field has in the past benefitted from engagement with contiguous disciplines like psychology, economics, and sociology, the environmental crisis demands that we further broaden our vision and engage with environmental philosophy, environmental science, political science, political ecology, public policy, as well as various heterodox schools of political economy.
Our SWG 15 aims over its four-year mandate to build a community of scholars who work on these issues – and encourage scholars in related subfields to join us. In this first year of the SWG’s efforts, our goal is to analyze the systemic nature of the climate emergency more comprehensively and explore various frameworks that can help us understand this system level. There are several theoretical perspectives that might help us in this endeavor, such as

  • Neo-Institutionalism (e.g. Ansari et al., 2013; Bothello & Salles-Djelic, 2018);

  • Political Economy (e.g. Wright & Nyberg, 2015);

  • Marxism (e.g. Adler, 2015; Böhm et al., 2012; Vidal et al., 2015);

  • Post-Colonialism (e.g. Banerjee, 2003), Eco-Feminism and Radical Ecology (e.g. Marchant, 2005); and

  • Neo-Schumpeterian approaches (e.g. Mazzucato, 2015; Perez, 2015).

We encourage submissions that will allow us to assess the potential contribution of these and other perspectives to our understanding of the system-level challenges posed by climate change and the other features of the Anthropocene.


  • Adler, P.S. (2015): “Book Review Essay: The Environmental Crisis and Its Capitalist Roots: Reading Naomi Klein with Karl Polanyi–Naomi Klein: This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 60 (2), NP13–NP25.
  • Aengenheyster, M., Feng, Q.Y., van der Ploeg, F., & Dijkstra, H.A. (2018): “The point of no return for climate action: Effects of climate uncertainty and risk tolerance.” Earth System Dynamics, 9 (3), 1085–1095.
  • Ansari, S., Wijen, F., & Gray, B. (2013): “Constructing a climate change logic: An institutional perspective on the ‘tragedy of the commons’.” Organization Science, 24 (4), 1014–1040.
  • Banerjee, S.B. (2003): “Who Sustains Whose Development? Sustainable Development and the Reinvention of Nature.” Organization Studies, 24 (1), 143–180.
  • Banerjee, S.B. (2011): “Embedding Sustainability Across the Organization: A Critical Perspective.” Academy of Management Learning & Education, 10 (4), 719–731.
  • Banerjee, S.B. (2012): “A Climate for Change? Critical Reflections on the Durban United Nations Climate Change Conference.” Organization Studies, 33 (12), 1761–1786.
  • Böhm, S., Misoczky, M.C., & Moog, S. (2012): “Greening capitalism? A Marxist critique of carbon markets.” Organization Studies, 33 (11), 1617–1638.
  • Bothello, J., & Salles-Djelic, M.-L. (2018): “Evolving conceptualizations of organizational environmentalism: A path generation account.” Organization Studies, 39 (1), 93–119.
  • Dunlop, I., & Spratt, D. (2019): “We must mobilise for the climate emergency like we do in wartime. Where is the climate minister?” The Guardian, June 2, 2019;
  • Eisenhardt, K.M., Graebner, M.E., & Sonenshein, S. (2016): “Grand Challenges and Inductive Methods: Rigor without Rigor Mortis.” Academy of Management Journal, 59 (4), 1113–1123.
  • IPCC (2018): Global Warming of 1.5 C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty. Geneva: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC);
  • Jermier, J.M., Forbes, L.C., Benn, S., & Orsato, R.J. (2006): “The new corporate environmentalism and green politics.” In: S.R. Clegg, C. Hardy, T.B. Lawrence & W.R. Nord (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of Organization Studies. London: SAGE Publications, 610–650.
  • Mazzucato, M. (2015): The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths. New York: Anthem Press.
  • Merchant, C. (2005): Radical Ecology: The Search for a Livable World. New York: Routledge.
  • Perez, C. (2015): “Capitalism, Technology and a Green Global Golden Age: The Role of History in Helping to Shape the Future.” The Political Quarterly, 86, 191–217.
  • Steffen, W., Hughes, L., & Pearce, A. (2015): Climate Change 2015: Growing Risks, Critical Choices. Climate Council of Australia Ltd.
  • Steffen, W. et al. (2018): “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115 (33), 8252–8259.
  • Vidal, M., Adler, P.S., & Delbridge, R. (2015): “When organization studies turns to societal problems: The contribution of Marxist grand theory.” Organization Studies, 36 (4), 405–422.
  • Wittneben, B.B., Okereke, C., Banerjee, S.B., & Levy, D.L. (2012): “Climate change and the emergence of new organizational landscapes.” Organization Studies, 33 (11), 1431–1450.
  • Wright, C., & Nyberg, D. (2015): Climate Change, Capitalism, and Corporations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Paul S. Adler is currently Harold Quinton Chair of Business Policy, and Professor of Management and Organization, Sociology, and Environmental Studies, at the University of Southern California, USA. He began his education in Australia, and then moved to France, before coming to the US in 1981. Most of his work has been in the area of organization theory. His most recent book is “The 99 Percent Economy: How Democratic Socialism Can Overcome the Crises of Capitalism” (Oxford University Press, 2019).
John M. Jermier is Professor of Organizational Behavior in the School of Information Systems and Management and Professor of Sustainable Enterprise Research in the Patel College of Global Sustainability at the University of South Florida, Tampa, USA. Most of his research is focused on developing critical frameworks for understanding organizations and their impacts on employees and the natural environment. He is also interested in critical theories and philosophies of social science research. He is co-founding editor and past co-editor (1997–2012) of the journal ‘Organization & Environment’, and he serves on the editorial review boards of several international journals.
Daniel Nyberg is a Professor of Management at the University of Newcastle, Australia. His research explores the politics of climate change, with a particular focus on how corporations engage both internally and externally with the climate catastrophe. He has published widely on this in journals, including ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Human Relations’ and ‘Organization Studies’, and (with Christopher Wright) is the author of “Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction” (Cambridge University Press, 2016).
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