Sub-theme 34:

Responding to Climate Change: Organizational Processes and Discourses

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Christopher Wright, University of Sydney, Australia

Daniel Nyberg, University of Sydney, Australia

Bettina Wittneben, University of Oxford, UK

Call for Papers

Responding to climate change has become the major economic, political and social challenge of our times. For organizations, climate change presents both a threat and an opportunity. Indeed, despite the lack of comprehensive international agreement, organizations are increasingly active in responding to climate change through voluntary international networks, engaging with government and public policy debates, as well as initiating changes and innovations in technologies and products.

In line with the general theme of the Colloquium, in this sub-theme, we are interested in exploring how organizational processes and discourses are being "re-assembled" to respond to climate change. Moving beyond the debate of whether organizational initiatives are "authentic" or "green-washing", we would like to focus on the complexity of organizational responses to climate change. We see this as occurring at different levels and suggest that a variety of theoretical perspectives could be used to analyse these phenomena. Sub-theme submissions are invited, but are not limited to, the following areas:

(1) At a global level, we have seen the assembling of networks to address environmental sustainability. For example, the United Nations Global Compact and the Global Reporting Initiative are networks that set out principles and indicators that organizational actors can use to evaluate and report on their environmental performance. These networks can be viewed as power arenas, where different actors compete over the network?s meanings and implications. Examples of questions here are:

  • How are these networks assembled, contested and negotiated?
  • How are the networks' principles and measurements translated into organizational practice?
  • How might such networks precipitate the emergence of new institutional logics?

(2) At a societal level, we can observe how countries are engaged in different forms of public policy debate regarding climate change. Here, nation-specific actors, such as, political parties, lobbyists, NGOs and industry leaders try to influence how the debate is framed by drawing upon local and global discourses. How the societal debate about climate change is conducted influences organizational responses. Examples of questions at this level are:

  • How do national institutional structures frame the climate change debate and how might we compare different national systems' responses?
  • How do these societal debates influence organizational processes and how might we understand these as institutional forces?

(3) At an organizational level, increasing numbers of companies have adopted environmental policies aimed at reducing their carbon footprint or presenting a "green" image to consumers and other stakeholders. Major organizations are now likely to have a corporate sustainability function and produce detailed sustainability reports. Examples of questions here are:

  • What types of organizational discourses have emerged around sustainability and climate change?
  • What are the rationalities and interests informing these organizational processes?
  • How do these processes inform other business processes?

(4) Finally, at the level of individual agency, we suggest the enactment of sustainability will also affect individual subjectivities and identities which may support, conflict or be ambivalent to broader organizational discourses. The personal and social identity of "green change agents" is an important feature informing organizational processes of sustainability. Examples of questions here include:

  • What are the motivations and social identities of "green" change agents and institutional entrepreneurs?
  • How do these individuals manage the conflicting demands of their personal opinions and their business role?

In summary, we are interested in submissions that seek to untangle the processes and discourses of climate change as organizational phenomena. We welcome both empirical and theoretical contributions to a sub-theme discussion we hope will span a wide range of theoretical perspectives as well as a broad range of methodological approaches on this critical topic.


Christopher Wright?is Professor of Organisational Studies and Chair in the Discipline of Work and Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney. His research includes the diffusion of management knowledge, managerial and professional identity, and technological and workplace change. He has published widely on these topics in leading journals including Human Relations, British Journal of Management, Organization, Management Learning, Business History, Work, Employment and Society; and New Technology Work and Employment, and is the author of several monographs including "The Management of Labour" (Oxford University Press, 1995). His current research interests focus on business responses to climate change, the role of "green change agents", internal consultancy, and decision-making and sensemaking among top management teams.

Daniel Nyberg?is a Lecturer in the Discipline of Work and Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney. His main research interests include organizational control; issues of materiality and discourse, and ethics in organizations. His current research focuses on the implications of climate change for organizations and the construction of sickness in organizations. Daniel has published in leading international journals, such as Organization Studies, Journal of Business Ethics and Personnel Review.

Bettina Wittneben?conducts research into climate governance at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford. She is also Senior Research Fellow in Management Studies at Pembroke College, Oxford. She received her MBA from the University of Alberta and the Ecole Superieure de Commerce de Grenoble. Her PhD thesis on "Institutional Change in the Transfer of Climate-Friendly Technology" (Cambridge) was awarded the Emerald/EFMD Outstanding Doctoral Research Award in Management and Governance. She has consulted the UN climate secretariat as well as the German government on climate change mitigation and energy policy. As Assistant Professor for Business-Society Management at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, she founded the Sustainability and Climate Research Centre. Her work on structural change in climate and energy policy has been published in Transport Reviews, Organization Studies, Energy Policy, Organization & Environment, Business & Society, International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics and Journal for European Environmental & Planning Law.

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