Sub-theme 15: [SWG] System Change, Not Climate Change: Alternative Futures for a World beyond Environmental Crisis --> HYBRID!

Paul S. Adler
University of Southern California, USA
Zlatko Bodrožić
University of Leeds, United Kingdom
Steffen Boehm
University of Exeter, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

The survival of human civilization depends on our ability to resolve the environmental crisis (Spratt, 2019). Organizational scholars have found it difficult to orient our research to a crisis of this magnitude. There is a huge disconnect between micro-level voluntary corporate sustainability practices – which regularly point toward progress – and the observed aggregate environmental outcomes – which just as regularly point toward catastrophe. This disconnect is a function of the system – the “rules of the game” – within which firms operate. Under the prevailing rules, voluntary action by businesses cannot be far-reaching and rapid enough to meet the challenge of the climate crisis.
In prior sub-themes of our Standing Working Group 15 at EGOS Colloquia, we analyzed the systemic origins of the environmental crisis and the systemic impediments to an effective response. A key conclusion of these privious meetings is that we need to study not only the crises-laden present but also alternative possible futures for our enterprises and systems: we need to mobilize our imaginative powers to form usable images of a truly sustainable economy and society.
This year’s sub-theme thus invites organization scholars to explore the possible shape of our world beyond the environmental crisis. We invite papers that use any of a wide variety of theoretical and disciplinary lenses to imagine a better future. Some possibilities include:

  • Shifting from an institutional framing of climate change that favours market mechanisms to an institutional framing that relies more on non-market mechanisms (Schüssler, Rüling, & Wittneben, 2014) and to cultural re-enlightenment (Hoffman & Jennings, 2021);

  • Shifting from shareholder dominance to genuinely democratic multi-stakeholder governance (Ferreras, Battilana, & Méda, 2022);

  • Shifting from corporate hegemony, which marginalizes dissenting voices, to a world that brought dissenting voices into the political debate (Wright & Nyberg, 2015; Levy & Egan, 2003);

  • Shifting from capitalism to democratic socialism (Adler, 2015; Adler, 2019);

  • Shifting from economic growth to de-growth (Chertkovskaya, Paulsson, & Barca, 2019) and post-growth (Banerjee et al., 2021):

  • Shifting from a passive role of the state and a dominance of the market to a transformative role of the state and dominance of public purpose (Adler, Bodrožić, & Jermier, 2021); and

  • Shifting from the divisions between the Global North and the Global South over who should share the burden of carbon emissions reductions (Banerjee, 2012; Bulkeley & Newell, 2015; Bumpas & Liverman, 2011) to a just transition that acknowledges the needs of the Global South.

Such explorations can be conceptual and/or empirically grounded in prefigurative cases. The convenors welcome inquiries from prospective participants.


  • Adler, P.S. (2015): Book Review Essay: The Environmental Crisis and Its Capitalist Roots: Reading Naomi Klein with Karl Polanyi.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 60 (2), N13–NP25.
  • Adler, P.S., Adly, A., Armanios, D.E., Battilana, J., Bodrožić, Z., Clegg, S., Davis, G. F., Gartenberg, C., Glynn, M.A., Gümüsay, A.A., Haveman, H.A., Leonardi, P., Lounsbury, M., McGahan, A.M., Meyer, R., Phillips, N., & Sheppard-Jones, K. (2022): “Authoritarianism, Populism, and the Global Retreat of Democracy: A Curated Discussion.” Journal of Management Inquiry, fortcoming;
  • Adler, P.S., Bodrožić, Z., & Jermier, J. (2021): The Climate Emergency and the Proactive State: New Directions for Management and Organization Studies. Paper presented at the virtual 37th EGOS Colloquium in Amsterdam, July 8–10, 2021.
  • Banerjee, S.B. (2012): “A Climate for Change? Critical Reflections on the Durban United Nations Climate Change Conference.” Organization Studies, 33 (12), 1761-1786.
  • Bulkeley, H., & Newell, P. (2015): Governing Climate Change. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Bumpas, A.G., & Liverman, D.M. (2011): “Carbon colonialism? Offsets, greenhouse gas reductions, and sustainable development.” In: R. Peet, P. Robbins & M. Watts (eds.): Global Political Ecology. London: Routledge, 203–223.
  • Chertkovskaya, E., Paulsson, A., & Barca, S. (2019): Towards a Political Economy of Degrowth. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
  • Ferreras, I., Battilana, J., & Méda, D. (2022): Democratize Work: The Case for Reorganizing the Economy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Hoffman, A.J., & Jennings, P.D. (2021): “Institutional-Political Scenarios for Anthropocene Society.” Business & Society, 60 (1), 57–94.
  • Schüssler, E., Rüling, C.-C., & Wittneben, B.B.F. (2014): “On Melting Summits: The Limitations of Field-Configuring Events as Catalysts of Change in Transnational Climate Policy.” Academy of Management Journal, 57 (1), 140–171.
  • Spratt, D. (2019): “Revisiting the climate collapse: The view from Nuuk in the year 2070.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 75 (6), 280–285.
Paul S. Adler is currently Harold Quinton Chair of Business Policy, and Professor of Management and Organization at the University of Southern California, USA. He has published widely in academic journals, edited several books, and most recently published “The 99 Percent Economy: How Democratic Socialism can overcome the Crises of Capitalism” (Oxford University Press, 2019). Paul is former President of the Academy of Management.
Zlatko Bodrožić is an Associate Professor in Technology, Organization and Sustainability, and co-leader of the LESS research group on system-level sustainability at the University of Leeds, UK He is interested in the evolution of technologies, management models, organizational paradigms and the political economic-system (see, for example, ‘Administrative Science Quarterly’, March 2018; ‘Organization Science’, 2022). Zlatko’s current research focuses on the evolution of these spheres in the era of digital transformation and climate change.
Steffen Boehm is Professor in Organisation & Sustainability at University of Exeter Business School, UK. He has published in, and is reviewer for, leading academic journals, including. ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Organization’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, ‘Academy of Management Perspectives’, ‘Global Environmental Policy’, ‘Climate Policy’, ‘Human Relations’, ‘Environmental Sociology’, and others.