Sub-Plenary 1-3

In Search of New Organizational Models
for Energy Transition towards Sustainability


Thursday, July 6, 2023, 16:00–17:30 CEST

Campus Magistero | Via Is Mirrionis 1 | 09127 Cagliari
Building Aggiunto, floor 1, room: Magna Capitini

Pamela Palmi, University of Salento, Italy
Esther Leibel, Boston University, USA
Oana Branzei, Ivey Business School, Western University, Canada
Silvia Dorado, University of Massachusetts Boston, USA
Joel Gehman, George Washington University, USA
Jochen Markard, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Fabrizio Giulio Luca Pilo, University of Cagliari, Italy

This sub-plenary will combine academic and practitioner’s presentations to discuss the concept of energy transition. Four renowned organizational and technology scholars will suggest ways in which organizational and processes innovation may facilitate the transition to cleaner energy.
The sub-plenary will also feature a ground-breaking project on the “Green electrification of Sardinia; promoted by Enel, Roma Tre University, and the University of Cagliari. This initiative, which aims at decarbonising the island and developing renewable energy, has been included in the Multi-Stakeholders Energy Compact of the United Nations and considered a model for the spread of electrification and the energy transition world-wide.
Our intention is to engage the audience in a discussion of how academia and industry can collaborate in pursuing solutions to environmental and societal challenges.

In the big data and artificial intelligence era, everything seems more predictable and easier to get. At the same time, more than ever, environmental, political, and societal challenges (Ferraro et al., 2016) have transformed uncertainty into the new norm. In the Energy sector, the contingent gas and oil market crisis (following the Covid-19 pandemic crisis and the Russia–Ukraine war), as well as the current global commitment to a transition to cleaner energy have triggered deep transformations (Markard et al., 2012). In this context, operators should continue to be resilient, with a special focus on the ability to adapt culturally to contexts characterised by constant changes and uncertainty.
Sustainability captures different perspectives that coexist in a dynamic balance and are attentive to external changes (Geels, 2010; Shrivastava & Guimarães-Costa, 2017; Shrivastava & Zsolnai, 2022). Given the scale of the challenges and the complexity of the topic, the transition to a more sustainable world has attracted academics from a wide range of disciplines (Hess, 2014; Van den Bergh et al., 2011).
With this sub-plenary, we aim to deepen the conversation among organizational and technology scholars, to better understand how to organize for energy transition. Different theoretical perspectives on multiple topics will be explored, including:

  • Technology and innovation: critical resources, capabilities, and complementary assets to transform socio-technical systems; emergence, maturity, and decline of technological fields; digitalization, automation processes, and robotics;

  • Business organization: business models for energy transition; roles, challenges, and opportunities for incumbent firms and newcomers during sustainability transitions; challenges in securing long term commitments and scaling up initiatives developed by many diverse actors; networking and collective action related to sustainability transitions;

  • People: opportunities to enhance and grow skills; ability to attract new and retain existing talents; diversity management; how to foster employee commitment to sustainability, as well as a corporate culture open to change, innovation, and continuous evolution;

  • Culture: struggles over the meaning of sustainability within and across organizational fields; shared value with stakeholders, creation of new jobs, transfer of know-how and collaboration with suppliers and subcontractors; wellbeing-oriented organizations: linking ecological regeneration with human flourishing.

This sub-plenary contributes to the Colloquium’s theme of “Organizing for the Good Life” by examining the significance of energy transition to organizational good life, “a collective construct that encompasses community resilience and progress, social equality and the environment respect”. In addition, it reflects the Colloquium’s concerns with both legacy and imagination, by examining new organizational models, work processes, and projects, along with the historical and cultural meanings of sustainability and energy transition in different societal contexts.


Ferraro, F., Etzion, D., & Gehman, J. (2015): “Tackling Grand Challenges Pragmatically: Robust Action Revisited.” Organization Studies, 36 (3), 363–390.
Geels, F.W. (2010): “Ontologies, socio-technical transitions (to sustainability), and the multi-level perspective.” Research Policy, 39 (4), 495–510.
George, G., Howard-Grenville, J., Joshi, A., & Tihanyi, L. (2016): “Understanding and tackling societal grand challenges through management research.” Academy of Management Journal, 59 (6), 1880–1895.
Hess, D.J. (2014): “Sustainability transitions: A political coalition perspective.” Research Policy, 43 (2), 278–283.
Markard, J., Raven, R., & Truffer, B. (2012): “Sustainability transitions: An emerging field of research and its prospects.” Research Policy, 41 (6), 955–967.
Shrivastava, P., & Guimarães-Costa, N. (2017): “Achieving environmental sustainability: The case for multi-layered collaboration across disciplines and players.” Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 116, 340–346.
Shrivastava, P., & Zsolnai, L. (2022): “Wellbeing‐oriented organizations: Connecting human flourishing with ecological regeneration.” Business Ethics, the Environment & Responsibility, 31 (2), 386–397.
Van den Bergh, J.C.J.M., Truffer, B., & Kallis, G. (2011): “Environmental innovation and societal transitions: Introduction and overview.” Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 1 (1), 1–23.

Oana Branzei is Donald F. Hunter Professor of International Business and Professor of Strategy and Sustainability at the Ivey Business School at Western University in Canada. Her research interests, at the intersection of strategy and sustainability, focus on novel forms and functions of business that purposefully address environmental, social, and governance (ESG) grand challenges. Oana leads major research initiatives on prosocial, circular, place-based, regenerative, and restorative organizing.

Silvia Dorado is Associate Professor of Management at the University of Massachusetts Boston, USA. She does research on topics connected with social innovation and social entrepreneurship with a keen interest in poverty alleviation.
Joel Gehman is the Thaddeus A. Lindner and Sergius Gambal Professor of Business Ethics and Professor of Strategic Management and Public Policy at the George Washington University School of Business, USA. Joel’s research investigates how businesses and other organizations can contribute to tackling grand challenges related to sustainable development through strategic practices, technological innovation, and institutional change.
Esther Leibel is an Assistant Professor of Strategy & Innovation at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, USA. Her research employs ethnographic and linguistic methods to study the dynamics of fields formation, with a focus on vocabulary, meanings, and practices development in the contexts of entrepreneurship and local investing.
Jochen Markard is a Senior Researcher (“Privatdozent”) at the Group for Sustainability and Technology within the Department of Management, Technology, and Economics of ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Jochen studies the interaction of technological change, actor strategies, policy and institutional change, and he applies concepts from different disciplines, including innovation and transition studies, political sciences and management studies.
Pamela Palmi is Associate Professor of Business Organization at the Department of Management, Economics, Mathematics, and Statistics, University of Salento, Italy. Her main research interests are focused on cultural and creative industries and change management processes.
Fabrizio Giulio Luca Pilo is Professor of Electrical Energy Systems at the University of Cagliari, Italy. His main areas of scientific research concern the planning and management of energy systems, the integration of renewable sources, energy efficiency, and the digitization of electrical systems.