Sub-Plenary 1-2

Beyond the ‘Big Disconnect’: Pathways for Research on the System-Level Challenges of Climate Change


Thursday, July 4, 2024, 16:00–17:30 CEST

U6 Building – “AGORÀ” | Room: U6-P-1-05 | Piazza dell’Ateneo Nuovo, 1 | 20126 Milano

Paul S. Adler, University of Southern California, USA
Zlatko Bodrožić, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom
Paul S. Adler, University of Southern California, USA
Lucie Baudoin, Excelia Business School, CERIIM, France
Zlatko Bodrožić, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom
Giuseppe Delmestri, WU – Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria
Daniel Muzio, University of York, United Kingdom
Daniel Nyberg, University of Newcastle Business School, United Kingdom
Sigrid Quack, University Duisburg-Essen, Germany
Christopher Wright, University of Sydney Business School, Australia

 Management and organization scholars have found it difficult to orient their research towards the threats posed by climate change. There is a “big disconnect” between firm-level sustainability efforts – which increasingly point toward progress – and the observed aggregate environmental outcomes – which increasingly point toward catastrophe. The root problem can be simply stated: under the prevailing “rules of the game” – set by the broader system within which firms operate – voluntary action by businesses cannot be far-reaching and rapid enough to meet the challenge of the climate crisis.

But how can management studies address this system-level challenge? In this sub-plenary, we attempt to respond to that question, building on the past three years work in EGOS’s Standing Working Group (SWG) 15. In this way, we respond to the theme of this year’s EGOS Colloquium, which invites us to “focus beyond single organizations, revealing basic principles of the complex adaptive systems” within which they are embedded.
The sub-plenary will feature three teams of scholars (Bodrožić/Adler, Delmestri, and Nyberg/Wright) who offer alternative views – somewhat complementary and somewhat contradictory – based on their contributions to a poin-counterpoint submission to the Journal of Management Studies (JMS). After a brief introduction (Adler), JMS Editor Daniel Muzio will offer some framing for the discussion. The three teams will then each present their perspectives. And two discussants (Quack, Baudoin) will then offer their assessments. This will leave time for Q&A with the audience.

The three teams propose perspectives based respectively on neo-Schumpeterian theory of technological revolutions (Bodrožić/Adler), new institutionalist theory of inter-institutional orders and logics (Schüßler/Delmestri), and post-structuralist theory of hegemony (Nyberg/Wright).

  • Bodrožić and Adler offer a framework inspired by the idea that the green transition is similar in scale and pace to other major technological revolutions we have traversed in the past. They argue that the success and trajectory of such revolutions depend on two key factors: public policy and organizational models. On their account, current neoliberal public policy allows, indeed drives, firms to focus on generating profit instead of reducing greenhouse gases, while the coercive character of the currently prevailing model of organization in both politics and business makes it difficult to change course. They urge scholars to focus on how progress in the fight against climate change can be stimulated by widening (a) the state’s role in the economy and (b) opportunities for democratic participation on both politics and businesses.

  • Delmestri builds on institutional theory to argue that our current dilemma is created by the dominance of market and corporate logics in many social spheres relevant to public welfare and nature protection (e.g., health care, education, food, animal husbandry, public transport) – to the detriment of other organizing logics such as state, community or profession. He encourages scholars to focus on the opportunities for progress created by policies that exclude certain social spheres from the dominance of the market and corporate logic.

  • Nyberg and Wright argue that the big disconnect is due to the hegemony of fossil fuel interests. They encourage scholars to focus on the hegemonic processes that establish what is seen as a ‘natural order’ and ‘common sense’ and how those processes have generated active and passive consent to the idea that business should lead our efforts to in mitigating and adapting to climate change. They show how hegemony works, by incorporating some demands and demonizing others. They suggest pathways for exploring how a counter-hegemonic movement can build strength.

Paul S. Adler is the Harold Quinton Chair in Business Policy at the Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California, USA. His research and teaching focus on organization theory and comparative political economy.
Lucie Baudoin is Assistant Professor in the Strategy Department of Excelia Business School in La Rochelle, France, since September 2021. All of her research engages with the following puzzle: What makes us collectively manage our ecosystems the way we do, and how can we get better at it? Lucie pursues interdisciplinary research projects trying to bridge organizational studies with natural sciences.
Zlatko Bodrožić is Chair in Digital Enterprise at the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom. He is interested in the evolution of technologies, management models, organizational paradigms and the political economic system. Zlatko’s current research focuses on the evolution of these spheres in the era of digital transformation and climate change.
Giuseppe Delmestri is Chair of Change Management at WU Vienna (Austria), member of the Competence Center for Sustainability Transformation and Responsibility (STaR – WU Vienna), Chair of EGOS, Executive Board member of ASSIOA, and faculty member of VHB-ProDok. He studies processes of categorization and evaluation.
Daniel Muzio is Professor of Management at York University. He is a General Editor of the Journal of Management Studies and a founding editor for the Journal of Professions and Organisation. Daniel’s research interests include the organisation and management of professional services firms, the sociology of the professions, organizational and professional wrongdoing and diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity.
Daniel Nyberg is Professor of Management at the University of Newcastle Business School, United Kingdom, and an Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney, Australia. His research explores responses to climate change in projects on the transition to a low carbon economy, the politics of adaptation, and how corporate political activities influence public policy.
Sigrid Quack is Professor of Comparative Sociology at the University Duisburg-Essen in Germany. She has written widely on globalization and institutional change, transnational governance, professions and expertise, as well as on the comparative analysis of capitalism, gender relations, labour markets and employment systems.
Christopher Wright is Professor of Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney Business School, Australia, and a key researcher at the Sydney Environment Institute. His research focuses on organizational and corporate responses to climate change.