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

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 March 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Krista Bondy
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
Guest Editor
Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
Interests: sustainable behaviour change; consumer behaviour
Dr. Aurelie Charles
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
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


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.


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

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
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