Sub-theme 34: Responding to Climate Change: Organizational Processes and Discourses

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 
Daniel Nyberg 
Bettina Wittneben