The effects of human-made climate change and ways of tackling it are inextricably linked to issues of inclusion and exclusion. Be it in terms of which actors are most responsible for and most affected by the current climate crisis (Diffenbaugh & Burke, 2019; Neumayer & Plümper, 2007), in terms of scientific knowledge production and accompanying recommendations (Ergene et al., 2018; Goodall, 2008; Tuana, 2013), and in terms of actors who feel empowered to be part of potential solutions such as adaptation and mitigation plans (e.g., Buck et al., 2014): different facets of the climate crises are connected to the reproduction and even reinforcement of asymmetrical inclusion/exclusion dynamics. At the same time, efforts of creating a more inclusive society are increasingly affected by the climate crisis. Not only is the climate movement perceived as a “threat to the masculinity of industrial modernity” (Anshelm & Hultman, 2014: 84) and encounters open misogyny and anti-environmentalism (Gelin, 2019), also certain forms of ‘climate crisis management’ might diminish, hinder or even reverse inclusion efforts for particularly marginalized groups (e.g., Wang, 2016).
Organizations hereby represent a crucial bottleneck for both issues: they are judged as one of the main causes for the climate crisis, but also for the reproduction of social inequalities (Avent-Holt & Tomaskovic-Devey, 2019; Wright & Nyberg, 2017). At the same time, organizations – and various practices of organizing – represent one of the biggest hopes for tackling societal “grand challenges” (George et al,. 2016). While climate scientists and policy makers have long paid attention to the interrelationship between social inclusion and climate change, this connection is largely neglected in organization studies. For instance, the principle of equity and inclusivity is firmly anchored in the United Nations climate negotiations (e.g., Schüßler et al., 2014), but many have argued that this principle stifles negotiation success (e.g., Schroeder & Boykoff, 2012). To date, we understand little about the suitable organizational mechanisms for avoiding ‘gridlock’ in such ‘inclusive organizations’. Also, women and indigenous people are not only recognized as some of the most vulnerable groups affected by the climate crisis, they are also seen as providing important knowledge for policy solutions, such as the use of an indigenous territorial ontology (Schroeder & Gonzáles, 2019). Generally, a variety of NGOs, trade unions, business, women’s and youth organizations, cities and regions, indigenous people communities and different religious groups play an increasingly important role in climate policy development (Kuyper et al., 2018) – but knowledge about how their organizational inclusion can be organized to develop more effective policy solutions is limited.
Furthermore, climate change is related to other earth processes such as land use and fresh water, which in turn are highly linked to social inequality. Consequently, there is a need for comprehensive systems thinking to fully grasp the interconnectivity of economic, political, social and ecological issues (Williams et al., 2017). As shown regarding the issue of inequality, for instance, the inclusion of diverse voices can support a process of scaffolding that eventually stabilizes as a new social order (Mair et al., 2016). Thus, there is evidence that social inclusion matters for grand challenges more generally, and for understanding the drivers and effects of climate change more specifically. In particular, both climate change as well inclusion and exclusion dynamics, while (re-)produced locally, are phenomena exacerbated by global entanglements of actors, practices and institutions. Organizations hereby face tensions between local (e.g., providing employment) and global (e.g., enhance competitiveness) demands (Greenwood et al., 2010). Also, in practice organizational attempts at becoming more inclusive or climate-smart often oscillate between the assumption that enhancing inclusivity or tackling climate change can be compatible with a ‘business case’ (Carroll & Shabana, 2010; Ferdman & Deane, 2014), and that organizations need to undergo substantial structural reforms that actually question ‘business as usual’ (Dobusch, 2014; Wright & Nyberg, 2017). Whether and how these tensions can be reconciled and which (new) forms of organizing might be suitable for this purpose represents a pressing issue for both fields of research.
New theoretical frameworks that are sensitive to cross-level feedback effects such as complex adaptive systems theories (Williams et al., 2019) or a systems-paradox lens (Schad & Bansal, 2018) as well as those that engage with “a-more-than-human-world perspective” (Calás & Smirchich, 2018: 415) might be required to better understand the interconnectedness of social-ecological systems. In sum, we believe that jointly looking at the issues of climate change and inclusion/exclusion from an organization studies perspective is not only an urgent necessity in terms of its practical relevance, but can also stimulate cross-pollination at the intersection of climate and inclusion studies in theoretical and empirical terms. Papers may address, but are not limited to the following topics:
- What do we empirically know about the relationship between current organizational approaches to tackle climate change and those to enhance inclusivity? How can we conceptually and theoretically understand this relationship?
- How inclusive are climate-smart organizing approaches? How climate-smart are approaches to inclusive organizing? When does the relationship between inclusive organizing and climate-smart organizing become mutually exclusive, when mutually stimulating?
- How inclusive are climate change movements? What are cross-field dynamics among multiple societal movements that intersect in the climate crisis?
- What are drivers and barriers for organizations in moving away from a “tradeoffs”-perspective between social, environmental, and economic goals towards alternative forms of organizing?
- What are examples of forms of organizing, working and ways of living that allow for a relationship with the nonhuman world that is not based on domination, exploitation, and objectification?
- What are suitable conceptual and institutional frameworks to address the interrelatedness among multiple social-ecological systems on different levels?
In the spirit of our sub-theme, we aim to have a practical impact and strive for an inclusive and climate-friendly organizing approach. We would like to ask participants to submit a 60 second video statement about the practical relevance of their research and to publish these videos before our sub-theme’s start (of course under consent), inviting the public to send us questions for discussion and reporting on this discussion on a blog afterwards.