SWG 15: Organization Studies in the Anthropocene: System Change, Not Climate Change



Paul S. Adler, University of Southern California, USA
Bobby Banerjee, City University of London, UK
Zlatko Bodrožić, University of Leeds, UK
Ekaterina Chertkovskaya, Lund University, Sweden
John M. Jermier, University of South Florida, USA
Ana Maria Peredo, University of Victoria, Canada
We face a climate emergency (see, for example, Dunlop & Spratt, 2019). Recent research results tell us we have only a decade until feedback and cumulative effects threaten a point of no return and the eventual collapse of the biosphere and of civilization as we know it (see, for example, Aengenheyster et al., 2018; IPCC, 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 (cf. Steffen et al., 2015).
In the past few decades we have seen the gradual emergence of organization and management research that addresses climate change and other environmental dangers (see, for example, Foster et al., 1997; Starik & Marcus, 2000; Banerjee, 2003; Bansal & Gao, 2006; Jermier et al., 2006; Jermier & Forbes, 2011; Böhm et al., 2012; Wright et al., 2012; Howard-Grenville et al., 2014; Hahn et al., 2017). This area of research has been symbolized and promoted by the creation of groups such as the Organizations and the Natural Environment Division of the Academy of Management, by the Group for Research on Organizations and the Natural Environment, and by the Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability.
Standing Working Group (SWG) 15 is motivated by our concern that the bulk of organization and management scholarship on environmental issues is too narrow, limited by its focus on changes in firm-level and individual-level behavior (see similar critiques offered by Jermier et al., 2006; Banerjee 2011, 2012; Wittneben et al., 2012). 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.

These threats require action by governments and supra-national inter-government agencies. Our scholarship on organizations and the natural environment should address the challenges and opportunities at that system level, too.

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 (e.g., 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 broaden our range of vision and engage with Environmental Philosophy, Environmental Science, Political Science, Political Ecology, and Public Policy.
The overall goal of SWG 15 is to help our field develop the conceptual and methodological tools we need to understand this system level and to contribute to the policy debates at that level. To accomplish this, we will involve the members of this SWG in a multidisciplinary learning process. This process will advance the development of a deeper understanding of the climate emergency by exploring various perspectives on the environmental crisis and relevant social and organizational dynamics. Learning will also be informed by and based on a dialogue with social movements and organizations that are in the forefront of addressing the climate emergency. SWG 15 will be the key organizational umbrella for this project – not only in relation to EGOS, but also in relation to the Academy of Management and other key intellectual communities.


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  • 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.
  • Bansal, P., & Gao, J. (2006): “Building the Future by Looking to the Past: Examining Research Published on Organizations and the Environment.” Organization & Environment, 19 (4), 458–478.
  • Böhm, S., Misoczky, M.C., & Moog, S. (2012): “Greening capitalism? A Marxist critique of carbon markets.” Organization Studies, 33 (11), 1617–1638.
  • Dunlop, I., & Spratt, D. (2019): “We must mobilise for the climate emergency like we do in war time. Where is the climate minister?” The Guardian, June 3, 2019; https://www.theguardian.com/environment/commentisfree/2019/jun/03/we-must-mobilise-for-the-climate-emergency-like-we-do-in-war-time-where-is-the-climate-minister
  • 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.
  • Foster, J.B., Jermier, J.M., & Shrivastava, P. (1997): “Global Environmental Crisis and Ecosocial Reflection and Inquiry: Introduction to Organization & Environment.” Organization & Environment, 10 (1), 5–11.
  • Hahn, T, Figge, F., Aragón-Correa, J.A., & Sharma, S. (2017): “Advancing Research on Corporate Sustainability: Off to Pastures New or Back to the Roots?” Business & Society, 56 (2), 155–185.
  • Howard-Grenville, J., Buckle, S., Hoskins, B.J., & George, G. (2014): “Climate Change and Management.” Academy of Management Journal, 57 (3), 615–623.
  • 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. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
  • Jermier, J.M., & Forbes, L.C. (2011): “Metaphor as the Foundation of Organizational Studies: Images of Organization and Beyond.” Organization & Environment, 24 (4), 444–458.
  • Jermier, J.M., Forbes, L.C., Benn, S., & Orsato, R. (2006): “The new corporate environmentalism and green politics.” In: S. Clegg, C. Hardy, T. Lawrence & W. Nord (eds.): Handbook of Organizational Studies. London: SAGE Publications, 618–650.
  • Starik, M., & Marcus, A.A. (2000): “Introduction to the Special Research forum on the Management of Organizations in the Natural Environment: A Field Emerging from Multiple Paths, with Many Challenges Ahead.” Academy of Management Journal, 43 (4), 539–546.
  • Steffen, W., Hughes, L., & Pearce, A. (2015): Climate Change 2015: Growing Risks, Critical Choices. Climate Council of Australia; https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/resources/climate-change-2015-growing-risks-critical-choices/
  • Wittneben, B.B.F., 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., & Grant, D. (2012): ‘“Hippies on the third floor’: Climate Change, Narrative Identity and the Micro-Politics of Corporate Environmentalism.” Organization Studies, 33 (11), 1451–1475.

About the Coordinators

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 has published widely in academic journals, and edited several books: “The Oxford Handbook of Sociology and Organization Studies: Classical Foundations” (2009), and “The Oxford Handbook of Sociology, Social Theory, and Organization Studies: Contemporary Currents” (2014). And most recently, he published “The 99 Percent Economy: How Democratic Socialism can overcome the Crises of Capitalism” (2019). Paul is former President of the Academy of Management, and has a long involvement as sub-plenary coordinator and sub-theme convenor at EGOS Colloquia.
Bobby Banerjee is Professor of Management and Associate Dean of Research & Enterprise at Cass Business School, City University of London, United Kingdom. His research interests include sustainability, climate change, corporate social responsibility, critical management studies and Indigenous ecology. He has published widely in international scholarly journals and his work has appeared in Academy of Management Learning & Education, Business Ethics Quarterly, Human Relations, Journal of Business Research, Journal of Management Studies, Journal of Marketing, Management Learning, Organization, and Organization Studies. He is the author of “Corporate Social Responsibility: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” and the co-edited volume “Organizations, Markets and Imperial Formations: Towards an Anthropology of Globalization”. Bobby has convened several sub-themes, professional development workshops and symposia at EGOS, AOM, and CMS conferences on topics like sustainability, climate change, CSR, postcolonialism, degrowth, and resistance movements.
Zlatko Bodrožić is a Lecturer in Information Management at the University of Leeds, United Kingdom. He is interested in the evolution of technologies, management models, organizational paradigms, institutions and public policy. His current research focuses on the evolution of these spheres in the era of digital transformation and climate change. Zlatko has convened several sub-themes at EGOS Colloquia, among others, on “Activity Theory and Organizations” (2017, with Yrjö Engeström & Anu Kajamaa) and most recently on “Historical-Evolutionary Organization Studies: Understanding the Past to Shape the Future” (2019, with Paul S. Adler & Thomas G. Cummings).
Ekaterina Chertkovskaya is a researcher in degrowth and critical organization studies based at Lund University, Sweden, with particular interests in the themes of alternative organizing, work and basic materials. Together with Alexander Paulsson and Stefania Barca, she is the co-editor of “Towards a Political Economy of Degrowth” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019). She was the general coordinator of the 6th International Degrowth Conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Malmö, Sweden (August 2018), which attracted 800 participants from across the globe. She is also a long-term member of the editorial bcollective of ephemera: theory & politics in organization.
John M. Jermier is Professor of Organizational Behavior at Muma College of Business and Professor of Sustainable Enterprise Research at Patel College of Global Sustainability at the University of South Florida, USA. His research interests include sustainability theory, radical ecology, organizational greening and environmental policy, critical management studies, and research philosophy and methodology. He has published in a wide variety of scholarly journals, including Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Administrative Science Quarterly, Human Organization, Human Relations, Journal of Management, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Leadership Quarterly, Organization, Organization Science, and Organization Studies. He is co-founding editor and served as editor or co-editor of Organization & Environment from 1997–2012. John is the author of the six-volume book project entitled “Corporate Environmentalism and the Greening of Organizations”.
Ana María Peredo is Professor of Political Ecology at the University of Victoria, Canada. Her research focuses on community alternatives, social economy, social justice and participatory action research, particularly among Indigenous people and disadvantaged communities. She has published in the areas of community-based entrepreneurship, poverty alleviation, commons and resistance movements. Her work appeared in journals such as the Academy of Management Review, Journal of Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Organization, Journal of Business Venturing, Journal of Management Inquiry, Journal of World Business, Journal of Management Education, among others. She has also published a number of book chapters, and co-edited a book on the effect of business on Indigenous interests and rights. Currently, she is co-editing two special issues, one for the Journal of Business Ethics (‘The Ethics of the Commons’) and the other for Organization (‘Theoretical Perspectives on Organizations and Organizing in a Post-Growth Era’).