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Special Issue "System-wide Disruption of Organisations for Sustainability"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Krista Bondy
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Management, University of Bath, Bath, BA2 7AY, UK
Interests: sustainability in management; systems thinking; power; organizational change
Dr. Judith I.M. de Groot
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
Interests: sustainable behaviour change; consumer behaviour
Dr. Aurelie Charles
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Social & Policy Sciences, University of Bath, Bath, BA2 7AY, UK
Interests: group behavior; individual decision-making; socio-ecological change; sustainable earnings
Dr. Emma Emanuelsson Patterson
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Bath, Bath, BA2 7AY, UK
Interests: sustainable technologies; scale-up

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The time for incremental change is over. Covid-19 has underscored not only the need for a radical rethinking of how our societies are organised, but the fact that this is possible. In many countries around the world, governments are enacting rapid and radical changes to support those who are, and who are becoming, vulnerable as a result of the spread of the corona virus - forms of help, that until now, they indicated was impossible (Baker, 2020). If we want to have any hope of staying within the safe operating space for humanity (Rockström et al., 2009), let alone for other species (Barnosky et al., 2011), rapid, radical and disruptive changes will be needed (Anderson & Bows, 2012; Steffen et al., 2018) across all areas of human endeavour.

So what can be done within the sphere of organisations? How can organisations, and the systems in which they exist, be reformed to meaningfully engage with sustainability issues? How can we disrupt the practices, structures, values, norms, manufacturing processes, relationships and/ or foundational principles that form our thinking around organisations and guide our behaviour within them? Given that ‘the environment is the boundary of, not co-equal to, development, constraining potential progress both economically and socially’ (Craig & Ruhl, forthcoming), how can we disrupt organisations in ways that addresses serious and non-linear changes within natural systems, such as climate change or susceptibility to disease?

While the concepts of disruption and radical change are not new to the management literature, most work conceptualises the disruptions/ changes as happening within the existing boundaries of the organisation (Jarzabkowski, Le, & Balogun, 2019), industry/ markets (Christensen, Baumann, Ruggles, & Sadtler, 2006) or between logics in institutional fields (Greenwood & Hinings, 1996). In this special issue, we would like to encourage you to think creatively about how to disrupt the very principles that underpin and maintain these boundaries, and the current relationship between organisations and the natural environment. We would like to see robust discussions of how to disrupt the problems on which you are focusing, and creative insight into how these disruptions might be achieved. In particular, contributions that cross disciplinary boundaries, and thus combine insights from more than one discipline are most welcome. Topics might include:

  • Moving from mitigation to adaptation (e.g. Bendell (2018), what changes are needed in:
    • organisational/ corporate governance,
    • markets,
    • economies,
    • societies and/ or
    • policy processes to prepare for non-linear environmental changes?
  • How do crises, such as the corona virus, shift or maintain problematic structures underpinning how we organise? What can this crisis teach us about the possibilities for radical change within societies and organisations?
  • How can organisations contribute to system-level resilience? Who are the stakeholders in system-level resilience?
  • How might rapid changes in social norms be achieved so as to prioritise pro-environmental values such as benevolence?
    • How can dominant organisational scripts, such as the market logic, be reshaped or replaced to reflect these norms?
    • How might organisational structures and practices be redesigned and/ or reorganised to reflect these norms?
  • How might large scale technological or behaviour change interventions be designed to enable rapid change? How might the political support be created to enable them?
  • How might established industries transform their processing/manufacturing?
    • In particular, how might this change be achieved when the challenge is 'why fix something that is not broken'?

A paper workshop for this special issue will run on Wednesday 2 December 2020. Papers selected for this workshop will be notified on Wednesday 4 November 2020, and must be submitted to [email protected] no later than Wednesday 14 October 2020. The paper workshop will be held ONLINE. Those selected for participation will be contacted to ensure a suitable online system for all to attend.

Authors need not participate in the paper workshop to be considered for publication in the Special Issue. The deadline for final submissions to the Special Issues is 31 March 2021.

Dr. Krista Bondy
Dr. Judith I.M. de Groot
Dr. Aurelie Charles
Dr. Emma Emanuelsson Patterson
Guest Editors

References:

Anderson, K., & Bows, A. (2012). A new paragigm for climate change. Nature Climate Change, 2(September), 639-640.

Baker, P. (2020). ‘We can’t go back to normal’: how will coronavirus change the world? The Guardian.

Barnosky, A., Matzke, N., Tomiya, S., Wogan, G. O. U., Swartz, B., Quental, T. B., . . . Ferrer, E. A. (2011). Has the Earth’s sixth mass extinction already arrived? Nature, 471, 51-57.

Bendell, J. (2018). Deep adaptation: a map for navigating climate tragedy. IFLAS Occasional Paper 2.

Christensen, C., Baumann, H., Ruggles, R., & Sadtler, T. (2006). Disruptive innovation for social change. Harvard Business Review, 84(12), 94-101.

Craig, R. K., & Ruhl, J. B. (forthcoming). New realities require new priorites: rethinking sustainable development goals in the Anthropocene. In J. Owley & K. Hirokawa (Eds.), Environmental Law Beyond 2020.

Greenwood, R., & Hinings, C. R. (1996). Understanding radical organizational change: bringing together the old and new institutionalism. Academy of Management Review, 21(4), 1022-1054.

Jarzabkowski, P., Le, J., & Balogun, J. (2019). The social practice of co-evolving strategy and structure to realize mandated radical change. Academy of Management Journal, 62(3), 850-883.

Rockström, J., Steffen, W., Noone, K., Persson, Å., Chapin III, F. S., Lambin, E., . . . Foley, J. (2009). Planetary Boundaries: Exploring the Safe Operating Space for Humanity. Ecology and Society, 14(2), 32.

Steffen, W., Rockström, J., Richardson, K., Lenton, T., Folke, C., Liverman, D., . . . Schellnhuber, H. J. (2018). Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene. PNAS (Proceedingsof the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America), 115(33), 8252-8259.

Keywords

  • disruptive change
  • systems
  • organisations
  • markets
  • values and/or behavior change
  • technological innovation
  • governance structures
  • interdisciplinary
  • multidisciplinary

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Article
Group Facilitation on Societal Disruption and Collapse: Insights from Deep Adaptation
Sustainability 2021, 13(11), 6280; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13116280 - 02 Jun 2021
Viewed by 2680
Abstract
This article synthesises the practice and rationale behind ways of facilitating gatherings on topics of societal disruption and collapse, which is argued to be useful for lessening damaging responses. The authors draw on first-person inquiry as facilitators of gatherings, both online and in [...] Read more.
This article synthesises the practice and rationale behind ways of facilitating gatherings on topics of societal disruption and collapse, which is argued to be useful for lessening damaging responses. The authors draw on first-person inquiry as facilitators of gatherings, both online and in person, in the post-sustainability field of ‘Deep Adaptation,’ particularly since 2018. This term describes an agenda and framework for people who believe in the probable, inevitable or unfolding collapse of industrial consumer societies, due to the direct and indirect impacts of human-caused climate change and environmental degradation. Some of the principles of Deep Adaptation facilitation are summarised, such as containment, to enable co-responsibility for a safe enough space for difficult conversations. Another key principle is welcoming radical uncertainty in response to the anxieties that people feel from their anticipation of collapse. A third principle is making space for difficult emotions, which are welcomed as a natural and ongoing response to our predicament. A fourth aspect is a curiosity about processes of othering and separation. This paper provides a review of the theories that a reason for environmental destruction is the process of othering people and nature as being less significant or meaningful. One particular modality called Deep Relating is outlined. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue System-wide Disruption of Organisations for Sustainability)
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Article
Sustainable Earnings: How Can Herd Behavior in Financial Accumulation Feed into a Resilient Economic System?
Sustainability 2021, 13(11), 5776; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13115776 - 21 May 2021
Viewed by 629
Abstract
The paper applies a methodological tool able to frame national policies with sustainable financial flows between social groups. In effect, exchange entitlement mapping (E-mapping) shows the interdependency of capital and labor earnings across social groups, which is then accounted for in the policy [...] Read more.
The paper applies a methodological tool able to frame national policies with sustainable financial flows between social groups. In effect, exchange entitlement mapping (E-mapping) shows the interdependency of capital and labor earnings across social groups, which is then accounted for in the policy planning of future financial flows for the green transition. First, the paper highlights the extent to which herd behavior feeds into capital and labor earnings by social, occupational, demographic, and regional groups for the United Kingdom, France, and Italy over the past 40 years. Second, learning from these past trends, the paper proposes a policy framing of “sustainable earning trends” to hamper or facilitate financial flows towards sectors, occupations, and regions prone to herd behavior. The paper concludes that for an economic system to be resilient, it should be able to recycle external shocks on group earnings into economic opportunities for the green transition. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue System-wide Disruption of Organisations for Sustainability)
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Article
Challenging the Status Quo through Social Influence: Changes in Sustainable Consumption through the Influence of Social Networks
Sustainability 2021, 13(10), 5513; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13105513 - 14 May 2021
Viewed by 834
Abstract
This study examines the influence of social network members (versus strangers) on sustainable food consumption choices to investigate how social influence can challenge the status quo in unsustainable consumption practices. We hypothesized that changes to individual consumption practices could be achieved by revealing [...] Read more.
This study examines the influence of social network members (versus strangers) on sustainable food consumption choices to investigate how social influence can challenge the status quo in unsustainable consumption practices. We hypothesized that changes to individual consumption practices could be achieved by revealing ‘invisible’ descriptive and injunctive social norms. We further hypothesized that it matters who reveals these norms, meaning that social network members expressing their norms will have a stronger influence on other’s consumption choices than if these norms are expressed by strangers. We tested these hypotheses in a field experiment (N = 134), where participants discussed previous sustainable food consumption (revealing descriptive norms) and its importance (revealing injunctive norms) with either a stranger or social network member. We measured actual sustainable food consumption through the extent to which participants chose organic over non-organic consumables during the debrief. Findings showed that revealed injunctive norms significantly influenced food consumption, more so than revealed descriptive norms. We also found that this influence was stronger for social network members compared to strangers. Implications and further research directions in relation to how social networks can be used to evoke sustainable social change are discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue System-wide Disruption of Organisations for Sustainability)
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Review

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Review
A Regenerative Business Model with Flexible, Modular and Scalable Processes in A Post-Covid Era: The Case of The Spinning Mesh Disc Reactor (SMDR)
Sustainability 2021, 13(12), 6944; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13126944 - 21 Jun 2021
Viewed by 511
Abstract
With stringent environmental regulations and a new drive for sustainable manufacturing, there is an unprecedented opportunity to incorporate novel manufacturing techniques. Recent political and pandemic events have shown the vulnerability to supply chains, highlighting the need for localised manufacturing capabilities to better respond [...] Read more.
With stringent environmental regulations and a new drive for sustainable manufacturing, there is an unprecedented opportunity to incorporate novel manufacturing techniques. Recent political and pandemic events have shown the vulnerability to supply chains, highlighting the need for localised manufacturing capabilities to better respond flexibly to national demand. In this paper, we have used the spinning mesh disc reactor (SMDR) as a case study to demonstrate the path forward for manufacturing in the post-Covid world. The SMDR uses centrifugal force to allow the spread of thin film across the spinning disc which has a cloth with immobilised catalyst. The modularity of the design combined with the flexibility to perform a range of chemical reactions in a single equipment is an opportunity towards sustainable manufacturing. A global approach to market research allowed us to identify sectors within the chemical industry interested in novel reactor designs. The drivers for implementing change were identified as low capital cost, flexible operation and consistent product quality. Barriers include cost of change (regulatory and capital costs), limited technical awareness, safety concerns and lack of motivation towards change. Finally, applying the key features of a Sustainable Business Model (SBM) to SMDR, we show the strengths and opportunities for SMDR to align with an SBM allowing for a low-cost, sustainable and regenerative system of chemical manufacturing. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue System-wide Disruption of Organisations for Sustainability)
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