Master’s Research: Methodology, Part 7

Research Design

In order to prepare an accurate account of the GMO moratorium in Peru this project will rely on multi-sited and macro ethnographic research methodologies. These strategies and techniques will each be theoretically informed by the feminist research qualities of reflexivity, positionality and reciprocity. The research goal will be to garner important opinions and perspectives from a myriad of stakeholders who are involved with the moratorium on GMOs—such as farmers, scientists, activists and politicians. These individual (micro) accounts, from multiple positions (this could be geographic, ideological and/or epistemological) in the spectrum of involvement with the moratorium, will then be extended outward or “bumped up a level of generalizability” (Luker 2010) and couched within larger (macro) and theoretical understandings of the production, usage, and governance of GMOs in the global world system. By doing so, this ethnographic project will map the multiple trajectories—their genesis, passageways and destinations—of governance, knowledge production and indigeneity as they occur within the Peruvian neoliberal field.

Multi-Sited & Macro Ethnography

In qualitative research, there are two types of ethnography: single sited and multi-sited. The latter separates itself from the former because it “moves out from the single sites and local situations of conventional ethnographic research designs to examine the circulation of cultural meanings, objects, in diffuse time-space” (Marcus 1995: 96). In other words, it is a mobile ethnography that examines multiple trajectories of socio-cultural phenomena across multiple sites. In doing so, multi-sited ethnographic methodologies complicate and extend the ‘them-us’ dualistic framework of single site ethnography, and work to break down the binary between “individual lifeworlds” and the world system. In short, “multi-sited research is designed around chains, paths, threads, conjunctions or juxtapositions of locations in which the ethnographer established some form of literal, physical presence, with an explicit, posited logic of association or connection among sites (Marcus 1995: 105).

Complimentary to multi-sited ethnography are the tenets of extended or macro-ethnography. In a comparison to canonical and positivistic styles of social research (i.e. survey design), Burawoy (1998) describes reflexive research as “a model of science that embraces not detachment but engagement as the road to knowledge” (p. 5).  Macro-ethnography applies this quality of reflexive social science and works to embed itself within localized peoples, processes and phenomena. The process then expands itself, extends outward, to include macro, external forces and eventually once more to subsume higher echelons of theoretical thinking. Burawoy (1998) describes this process, “reflexive science starts out from dialogue, virtual or real, between observer and participants, embeds such dialogue within a second dialogue between local processes and extralocal forces that in turn can only be comprehended through a third, expanding dialogue of theory with itself” (p. 5). Even more explicitly, Burawoy (1998) explains, “the extended case method applies reflexive science to ethnography in order to extract the general from the unique, to move from the “micro” to the “macro”, and to connect the present to the past in anticipation of the future, all by building on preexisting theory” (p. 5, emphasis in the original).

Garnering Informants & Preserving Consent

            This research project will attempt to replicate the fluid qualities Marcus and Burawoy’s multi-sited and macro-ethnographic research designs. When it comes to sampling Duneier (2011) explains, “one of the most popular ways to gain access in ethnographic research is known as convenience sampling: phenomena are included in a study on the basis of their availability, rather than through random sampling” (p. 1). In other words, this strategy will allow what is occurring in the field to inductively inform who is chosen for interviews and what social phenomena is chosen for observation and analysis. This technique will be combined with Quark’s (2012) sampling strategy. In her study about scientized politics and global governance in the cotton trade, she explains, “my sampling strategy for interviews aimed to capture variation both within different nodes of the commodity chain and across different geographic locations […] to this end, I interviewed actors in each of the key nodes or positions within the cotton trade…” (Quark 2012: 905).

For the present research project, key informants will conveniently be chosen from throughout the different levels of involvement with the GMO moratorium. In this case, multi-sited variation will be attained because of the geographic separation between rural areas, where farmers live and work, and urban areas, where politicians and scientists tend to work. Ideological and epistemological variation will also be attained by including various stakeholders with dissimilar beliefs, opinions and ways of knowing—both about the neoliberal political climate and the highly scientific characteristics of biotechnology. Instead of allowing canonical research guidelines to control my sample and sampling size, I will follow Hine’s (2007) advice and focus on diversity as the key insight for good ethnography—allowing saturation of data to be my signal for an appropriate sample size and successful data gathering process. By doing so, this research project—in line with the expansive merits of multi-sited and macro-ethnography—will stretch the notion of conventional single-sited ethnography and other forms of positivistic social science research. Hine (2007) explains, “our methodological instincts are to clean up complexity and tell straightforward linear stories, and thus we tend to exclude descriptions that are faithful to experiences of mess, ambivalence, elusiveness and multiplicity” (p. 663). However, social science research is inherently messy and “fundamentally nonlinear” (Marshall & Rossman 2016: 65). Instead of attempting to purge research of messiness, the research design for this project will embrace the sometimes chaotic and iterative research process as normal and inevitable qualities of social life.

However, it is absolutely crucial to know that the potential disorderliness of this project will not negatively impact the informants who are selected for interviews or the spaces that are chosen for observation. The consent and security of all participants and locations will be preserved according to mandated IRB protocol. In a discussion on feminist ethnography, Stacy (1988) explains the unfortunate reality of ethnographic research, “field work represents an intrusion and intervention into a system of relationships, a system of relationships that the researcher is far freer than the researched to leave” (23). I intend to manage this intrusion by always, first and foremost, obtaining consent from all my informants.  In fact, this project will go one step further in order to protect an informant’s right to non-participation by practicing what Ellis (2007) calls ‘process consent’. She defines process consent as the action of checking at each stage of research whether or not participants still want to be included. By doing so, I am able to hold my research accountable for only including informants—and their highly valued personal stories, thoughts and opinions— who want to be included, and who have some piece of information that advances my research. In addition, and according to IRB protocol, any and all interview transcripts will be electronically filed and password protected. The field notes I create will use codes and pseudonyms to ensure anonymity amongst my informants and the locations I choose to observe. If names of my interview informants are needed in the final written portion of the project, I will encourage the informants to create pseudonyms and name themselves. This will help preserve their humanness, by avoiding identification numbers, and their agency, by being in charge of how they are represented in the final product.


Master’s Research: Theoretical Foundations, Part 4

Theoretical Foundations

Certain theoretical frameworks or “currents of thought” (Schram 2006: 63) will inform this proposal and the eventual research that is to be completed in Peru. By beginning with a discussion of neoliberalism, the paper will present the political hegemony that dominates the following sections—governance, politics and science, and rural (often indigenous) lifeworlds. In other words, neoliberalism, and its ability to permeate into, and influence the myriad of spheres contained within the social world, applies top-down pressure on each of the theoretical discussions presented below. This understanding of neoliberalism, along with its various conceptualizations and critiques from scholars in the field, will extend outward from the presence of neoliberalism in Peru specifically, to the neoliberal world-system, especially agricultural system, more generally.

Neoliberalism in Peru  

According to Kinchy, Kleinman & Autry (2008), “neoliberalization is an explicit political project not a structural inevitability” (p. 148). While for Bourdieu (1998), neoliberalism is “a myth in the strong sense of the word, an idee force, an idea which has social force, which obtains belief” (p. 34). Combining these two ideas, we see that for Peru, this is absolutely true. The neoliberal hegemony that took control of Peru during the Presidency of Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) was made possible because of a series of specific and deliberate policy changes that supported a certain belief about the future. At the time, Peru was in the middle of the “deepest crisis ever faced by the Peruvian nation-state” (Drinot 2014a: 2).  Four-figure inflation, declining GDP and per capita income, along with violence and terrorism from the guerrilla movement “Sendero Luminoso” were just a few of the State’s major problems (Graham & Kane 1998). Drinot (2014a) explains that “these two processes overlap in time” and can be seen as “interconnected” (p. 2). Drinot (2014a) goes on to explain, “it was the depth of the crisis generated by the internal armed conflict (and the economic mismanagement of the governments in the 1980s) that created the conditions for neoliberal reforms to be implemented with little to no opposition” (p.2).  Because of this, in what has been described as complete “authoritarianism”, Fujimori’s new government, in conjunction with the World Bank and International Monetary fund and inspired by a progressive belief about the future, began a “shock therapy” style structural adjustment plan (Drinot 2014a). This program has been perpetuated throughout the following Presidencies, and continues to dominate the political sphere in Peru to this day. However, Law No. 29811 —although largely a maneuver to give time in order to create neoliberal governance strategies for transgenics—is an example of pushback against this neoliberal narrative; suggesting, perhaps, neoliberalism’s ideological and political vulnerability.

What occurred during the Presidency of Fujimori, and the resulting socio-political ideologies that manifested, aligns with Brenner & Theodore’s (2002) definition of neoliberalism: the “belief that open, competitive, and unregulated markets, liberated from all forms of state interference, represent the optimal mechanism for economic development” (p. 350). Much of what Fujimori did, along with the following presidents such as Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006) and Alan Garcia (2006-2011), supported massive privatization of State resources such as minerals & natural gas (Bury 2005), and paved the way for immense foreign direct investment from developed nations. Despite the neoliberal readjustments initially leading to a more profound recession in the first two years, they did achieve some improvements in terms of macroeconomic stabilization (Drinot 2014a; Graham & Kane 1998). For example, by 1994, inflation had fallen to 15.4% and in 1997 it was in single figures again (6.5%). GDP began to rise again from 1993; in 1994 it reached 13.1% and remained positive in the years that followed (INEI, 1998). These economic improvements produced welfare gains for the country and helped reduce the poverty level. One way the adjustment achieved this was by enlarging the Peruvian middle-class and developing new consumption patterns that transformed large parts of urban Peru (Drinot 2014a).

These examples of neoliberalization, rationalized through the idea that macroeconomic development would serve as a panacea for Peruvian poverty and inequality, also had adverse effects on Peruvian women (Hays-Mitchell 2002) and particularly rural Peruvian farmers in the Andean highlands (Drinot 2014a). Crabtree (2002) argues that the “consequence of economic liberalization seems to have been to increase rather than diminish inequality” in Peru (p. 133). In fact, it has been found that the neoliberal restructuring of the Peruvian economy (and emphasis on biotechnology) has led to “a concentration of economic power among larger and more efficient producers and to the detriment of small-scale producers” (Crabtree 2002: 155). Such much so, that small-scale Peruvian farmers have “had to weather the impact of adverse macroeconomic policies that reduced the demand for food, trade policies that encouraged competing imports, and sectoral policies designed to remove the state from active involvement in agriculture” (Crabtree 2002: 155).

Neoliberalism in Peru has led to dichotomized outcomes that run parallel to the macro and micro heuristic ways of thinking. In other words, the neoliberalization of Peru has led to some macroeconomic improvements, while also creating some problems on the micro or individual levels. Rural Peruvian populations in general, along with women and farmers specifically, have struggled to keep up with the rapid neoliberalization of Peru. All the while, the Peruvian elite and country as a whole, as well as other developed nations responsible for pumping investment into the economy, continue to benefit. Knowing this, and by ‘extending’ outward, in Burawoy’s (1998) sense of the word, we begin to see how what is happening in Peru connects with what is occurring on a global scale. Specifically, we begin to see how the controversy over biotechnology and the use of transgenics in Peru, inundated by and embedded within a neoliberal political and economic hegemony, relates to the wider academic and international discrepancies over the governance of GMOs.

Biotechnology Governance

According to Winickoff et al. (2005), there are two divergent regulatory philosophies that dominant the controversy over governing transgenics: the ‘products approach’ and the ‘process approach’. According to them, the fundamental question that divides the two is “whether to assess genetically modified risk on the basis of the products themselves, or on the basis of the underlying production processes” (Winickoff et al. 2005: 87, emphasis in the original). Winickoff et al. 2005 explain that “the products approach to regulating GMOs assumes that no untoward risk occurs merely from applying this technology to agricultural production (p. 87). In other words, the products approach for regulating GMOs assumes that no risks are involved in the process or application of transgenics. If the science and product itself is well-designed and an appropriate regulatory apparatus is put into place, then usage of transgenics is considered safe.

In contrast, the “process approach rests on the idea that genetic engineering itself may entail novel and unique risks to human health or the environment” (Winickoff et al. 2005: p. 87). This regulatory philosophy is inevitably more precautionary. In other words, the process approach assumes that a certain level of unknown exists about the process of using transgenics and that this process may include hazards, to both the environment and humans, that modern science does not yet fully understand. This regulatory mindset falls in line with Beck’s (1992) conceptualization of the risk society—that as an industrialized society, we create risks, and combat those risks, with technologies whose ramifications have yet to be fully flushed out.  In general, the United States has embraced the products approach for regulating GMOs, as it parallels more closely to the neoliberal ideology. This thinking places the upmost power upon modern science and trusts that regulation, no matter how intense or shoddy, will keep the environment safe. In support of this idea, Kinchy, Kleinman & Autry (2008) explain, “we continue to find close links between neoliberal policy ideas and scientism; the two discourses work together to promote a policy of minimal regulation of biotechnology” (p. 168). The European Union on the other hand, and other developed nations, have historically approached the idea of transgenics with more caution (Winickoff et al. 2005). Knowing this, and understanding that constructions about the importance of science and legitimated knowledge can differ, it is important to take a look at the role of science in creating governance techniques over GMOs.

Similar to the dichotomized arrangement of the ‘product’ and ‘process’ regulatory philosophies, Quark (2011) arranges her thinking around two important foci: the ‘world polity’ and ‘world-system’ ideologies. In doing so, Quark (2011) attempts to address the involvement of science in the construction of governance arrangements. Using the world polity framework, culture becomes the emphasis rather than the economy, politics or power (Pellow & Brehm 2013). Science becomes the most widely accepted, and global means for measurement and action.  This idea is based on the cultural understanding that science is universal, and most importantly, value neutral. In other words, the world polity ideology assumes an essentialist and scientist mindset when it comes to the creation of governance strategies for transgenics.

On the other hand, the world system ideology understands science as a mechanism for the global elite to dominate the world system (Quark 2011). This Marxist understanding, informed by Wallerstein’s (2004) arrangement of the capitalist world system, sees global governance occurring through the creation and application of certain types of science.  Quark (2011) explains, “this competition for legitimating knowledge”, between the world polity and world system ideologies, “helps us to understand how new governance networks are constructed that draw diverse actors together to legitimate certain constellations of science, technology and power” (p. 913). She goes on to say, “struggles over standards are thus shaped by the access to resources and research legacies, as well as the competition to define what science will be accepted as legitimate” (p. 913).

The world polity and world system approaches both acknowledge the important role that science plays in the governance of transgenics. Similarly, they both intersect with the product and process philosophies presented by Winickoff et al. (2005). The world polity ideology aligns with the product approach for regulation—both subsume a legitimized and essentialist power into modern science. In other words, both the world polity and products approaches support a scientist mentality for governing transgenics; each informed by and created by neoliberal tendencies to generate markets for genetically modified products themselves (i.e. seeds) and to decentralize regulation from State authority while simultaneously shifting the onus into the privatized and third-party realms of transgenic governmentality. “Traditionally, it was predominately government agencies that were responsible for monitoring food safety standards and food quality attributes. However, the globalization of the agrifood system, the consolidation of the food retail industry, and the rise in private retailer standards have precipitated a shift in responsibility for this task to third-party certifiers” (Hatanaka, Bain & Busch 2005: 355).

On the other hand, the world system and process approaches towards governing transgenics complicate the issue. Each is embedded with a more intense precautionary principle. [DM1] In other words, both the world system and process approaches understand the complexity and risk involved with both the usage and regulation of GMOs. These ideologies agree that the process from a transgenic product to implementation and regulation are laden with unavoidable power dynamics and inequitable constructions of legitimized (and therefore alienated) knowledge systems. The world system and process approaches understand how scientism and scientization can directly impact how transgenics are governed. Quark (2011) sheds light on this influence when she writes, “first, scientization can formalize existing power inequalities given the uneven terrain of research legacies. Second, as scientization channels politics through science, powerful actors are better situated to legitimate their own interests in scientific terms and to define what makes science legitimate” (p. 895). This intersection, between science and politics, proves to be the means through which a governance strategy comes to fruition, both in Peru and in the world system more generally.


Organizations and the Environment

Organizations and Environment

Michael L. Dougherty and T.W. Dondanville

Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Illinois State University, Normal, IL, USA


Bureaucracy; Climate change; Ecological modernization; Risk society; Sustainable development


Organizations – groupings of people in society that come together for specific purposes – have an impact on the natural environment and the natural environment, in turn, influences organizations.


Human society profoundly shapes the natural environment. We harvest natural resources, build elaborate urban settings, and deposit waste from economic processes back into nature. These processes produce deforestation, pollution, reduce biodiversity, and transform ecosystems. While it is common knowledge that human society influences nature, the converse is also true. The biophysical world shapes human society. Poverty and

abundance, family and industry, are impacted by the landscape, stocks of natural resources, and weather. Human settlements follow the contours of watersheds. Economies are differently endo- wed with natural resource riches. At its core, the scholarship of organizational and environmental studies is concerned with this reciprocal interplay between human society and nature.

When we speak of human organizations we mean something a bit narrower than society. Orga- nizations are companies, governments and other major subsocietal bureaucratic endeavors. Orga- nizational studies – made up of organizational sociology and management studies – is the study of bureaucracy, governance, and management of human organizations.

We live in a moment of environmental crisis. Climate change, resource scarcity, and “natural” disaster have come to characterize the global environment of the twenty-first century. It is more urgent than ever, therefore, to understand the interplay of organization and environment. This article lays out the chief intersections of organizational studies and environmental social science. In the next section, we discuss the central concepts in the field of organizational studies and the relevance of these concepts for environ- mental concerns. In the third and fourth sections, we hone in on the two most salient points of intersection for organizational and environmental studies – sustainable development and climate change.


Organizational Theory and the Environment


Organizational theory has been in fluctuation since its beginning. A variety of disciplines – from economics to business management to engineering – have made use of the concepts of organizational theory, each with their own unique application.

Organizational theory has its roots in the work of sociologist, Max Weber (1946), who, interested in the architecture of the modern capitalist econ- omy, focused on the multidimensional intersec- tions of social classes, status groups, and political parties. For Weber, these three dimensions were intricately attached to capitalism and operated within an organizational structure that both relied on and prolonged their specialized roles. Weber aligned the development of capitalism, and the subsequent division of labor, along with the devel- opment of bureaucracies and bureaucratization.

For Weber (1946), a bureaucracy is a closed hierarchy of levels of graded authority which cre- ate a system of super- and subordination. This hierarchy coincides with the money economy. The increased bureaucratization of capitalist economies – or rational delineation of specialized activities and actions – matches the accumulation of goods and capital. These processes, then, create social class divisions. This set of concepts over- laps with Emile Durkheim’s (1972: 143) notion of organic solidarity, where individuals in society become “co-ordinated and subordinated one to another around the same central organ which exer- cises a moderating action over the rest of the organism.”

Weber’s bureaucracy is still the basis for mod- ern organizational sociologists’ ideas about orga- nizations, firms, and institutions. Yet, important contemporary departures from classical organiza- tional sociology have emerged.

The first of these contemporary currents in organizational theory is a movement away from conceiving organizations as closed systems toward seeing them as open systems. Weber defined organizations as closed social relations with access granted only to specific individuals by a chief or director and an administrative staff

(Scott 2004). However, contemporary organiza- tions have more permeable, less fixed boundaries. For example, permanent workers have now been joined, sometimes even replaced, by temporary, part-time, and contract employees. Teams and project groups often include members from mul- tiple independent firms, and organizations down- size and/or work with partners and competitors (Kanter et al. 1992). Similarly, production and service systems now extend across networks of independent companies and agencies.

The notion of externalization is similar to that of organizations and open systems. Classic orga- nizational response to challenges (e.g., workers, technology, expertise) was to absorb and therefore mitigate these challenges by incorporating them into the bureaucracy. However, modern organiza- tional sociologists observe a process of externali- zation whereby organizations dispose of internal units and contract out functions that were for- merly performed in-house (Scott 2004). Along with the move toward open, flexible organizations comes a move toward horizontal systems of man- agement as a complement to the traditional verti- cal systems.

These new characteristics of organizations hold implications for the natural environment. First the consolidation of bureaucracy as described by Weber ushered in the era of indus- trial and capitalist excess and the rise of the city in the early twentieth century, which began society’s dependence on fossil fuels. This era of assembly lines and growing income disparities turned citi- zens into consumers and alienated workers. All of these qualities of twentieth century capitalism came part and parcel with environmental degra- dation. The sooty center cities of the mid-twentieth century and the minority groups that populated them comprised the first real cases of environmental injustice. Organizational theory, therefore, came of age in a moment and described a set of conditions that set society on the path to the acute environmental crisis.

The move in the late twentieth century toward open, flexible firms characterized by outsourcing and short-term contract work weakened organized labor and set the stage for the growth of precarious work. Organizations tend to pursue collective goals at the expense of individual goals (Coleman 1974). But the late twentieth century intensified the anomie experienced by individual workers. Scott (2004: 10) describes this phenomena writ- ing, “rather than organizations serving as agents under our control to assist us in pursuing our goals, we more often spend time and energy serving as agents of organizations as they pursue their specialized and limited ends.”


Technological innovations that came bundled with the advent of industrial capitalism (e.g., nuclear power, the medicalization of health, air travel, etc.) produce important social benefits but also represent serious risks. Organizational sociologists introduced the idea of “normal accidents” to explain these developments and their negative consequences (Perrow 1984). Perrow (1984) argues that the complexity and interdependence of parts is so sensitive that accidents must be expected. Modern society is a risk society where organizational breakdowns become common occurrences. Society employs advanced technologies to clean up or mitigate the risk of future disasters, which, in turn, introduces new sets of risks (Beck 1992).

A final consequence of the rise of the firm, vis-à-vis the natural environment, is the implication of decentralized management and silos of expertise for the system knowledge and application necessary to treat environmental problems. When no one limb of a firm knows what the other limbs are doing, holding companies accountable becomes difficult. Decentralized management allows firms to claim ignorance regarding ethical, environmental, and labor problems. See Dougherty (2015) as an example of this in the context of corruption in the mining industry.

Organizations and Sustainable Development

International organizations of governance, to a large extent, have established the contours of environmental discourse in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The predominant environmental discourse today is that of sustain- ability and sustainable development – a discourse

which seeks to preserve capitalist production and consumption and places human life quality at the center.

Sustainable development as a concept originated with efforts of the United Nations in the 1980s to address both environmental degradation and underdevelopment in the global south. The United Nations’ World Commission of Environment and Development, commonly known as the Brundtland Commission, took place in 1983. In 1987, the published report of that meeting, Our Common Future, introduced the sustainable development model as a solution to several global problems including food insecurity, uneven growth, and energy and resource scarcity. Our Common Future coined the definition of sustain- able development, still in wide use today: development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The Bruntland Commission laid the foundation for the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, formally known as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. This meeting established specific mechanisms to achieve sustainable development. One major outcome was the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which laid out the Rio Principles as guidelines for sustainable development. The Rio Declaration shifted the discourse around solving environmental problems from one of government regulation to one of market forces. This gave further momentum to the concept of sustainability, rendering it the dominant environmental dis- course of the twenty-first century.

Twenty years after the original Earth Summit, in 2012, the United Nations hosted a follow-up conference entitled, Rio + 20. Like the previous meetings, this meeting was oriented towards mar- ket mechanisms to solve environmental problems, arguing that economic growth itself is the solution to environmental degradation.

Sustainable development appeals widely across the political spectrum, given its under- standing of environmental stewardship and economic growth as codependent. The term “sustainable,” as a result, is used to mean many different things and has become quite diluted in the process. As is pointed out by Humphrey, Lewis, and Buttel (2002: 224) no politician has ever claimed to be in support of “unsustainable development.”


Economist Herman Daly (2003) offers a more precise definition for sustainable development as an alternative to the United Nations standard- bearer. Daly suggests that when the stocks of resources extracted from nature and introduced into the economy are replenished, in like or greater proportion, we have achieved sustainability. He calls this the throughput definition – where outputs equal inputs. Where the United Nations definition takes human society as the focal point, the throughput definition takes the biophysical world as the centerpiece.

Corporations are aware of the contradictions between management and environmental goals. Organizations approach such contradictions from varying perspectives (Van der Byl and Slawinski 2015). Some suggest that there are “win-win” arrangements in which organizations can promote sustainability and profit through green consumer- ism and green production. This approach is embodied in policy circles by the notion of the “green collar economy” (Jones 2008) and in the scholarly literature by ecological modernization theory (Mol 2003). Other companies see this con- tradiction as a set of tradeoffs or zero-sum choices (Van der Byl and Slawinski 2015).

Sustainability has become a buzzword in organizational and management studies to refer to practices designed to achieve organizational health and growth. This literature is often divorced from the environmental dimensions of sustainability. Organizations are rightly concerned with efficient use of resources as an integral dimension of organizational sustainability, but more often than not environmental costs are externalized and not captured in this account- ing. For organizations to move closer to achieving sustainability in throughput terms, they must begin to internalize these environmental costs.


Organizations and Climate Change

The dawn of the modern corporation at the turn of the twentieth century institutionalized rational, utility-maximizing logic (Linnenluecke and Griffiths 2015). This rise of the firm and the organization and the concomitant intensified resource use has led to dramatic increases in greenhouse gas emissions and the unequal distribution of the costs and burdens of the effects of these emissions (Linnenluecke and Griffiths 2015). In 2010 alone, commercial and industrial sources in the United States emitted three times the CO2 of residential sources (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2016). As a recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warned, the increasing magnitudes of warming exacerbate the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts (IPCC 2014). This is emblematic of Ulrich Beck’s (1992: 19) warning that “in advanced modernity, the social production wealth is systematically accompanied by the social production of risks.”

There is a disconnect also between the prescription for stemming the tide of climate change – individual changes in lifestyle and consumption habits – and the scale on which the inputs and outputs to and from organizational bureaucracies emit greenhouse gases and threaten the global climate. This phenomenon might also be described as a disconnect between “the limits of exponential growth modes and their impacts on natural systems” stemming mostly from their inability to match human actions and ecological timeframes (Linnenluecke and Griffiths 2015). The tendency of modern society is to individualize risks, hazards, and environmental “bads,” including climate change. Subsequently, the solutions or mitigation of such risks become individualized (Beck 1992). This characteristic dovetails with the tendency, described in the organizational studies literature, for organizations to externalize responsibilities onto the individual (Scott 2004). Maniates (2001) refers to this as the “individualization of responsibility.” In blaming individuals for environmental bads we give organizations a pass when they should be at the forefront of pro- posing and implementing solutions.


This individualization of responsibility exonerates organizations from responsibility and thus fails to countervail climate change. Climate change, therefore, is a global problem with its roots in the rise of the modern organization. Climate change requires solutions constructed on the same grand scale and according to the same organizational principles as modern organizations. This observation does not make individuals exempt from responsibility for their lifestyle choices but serves to remind us that the most effective efforts to mitigate climate change must come from the organizational level at which the systematic problems originate. Howard-Grenville et al. (2014: 615) petition management and organizational scholars to integrate climate change into their agendas. “Climate change is so pervasive that its causes and consequences show up at every level of analysis of interest to organizational scholars. . .climate change and responses to it will fundamentally reshape many of the phenomena, interactions, and relationships that are of central concern to management scholars.”


Organizations are agglomerations of humans within society that seek to accomplish specific goals. These can refer to organizations of governance at the local, national, or global level or can refer to private firms either with or without profit motives. Organizations are fundamental to modern human society and are the building block of the global capitalist economy. In this context, organizations to which conserving the biophysical world is external are likely to be in fundamental conflict with environmental goals. This is so despite the galvanized efforts, over the past 20 years, of organizations to support environmental goals through greening production and consumption and through corporate social responsibility programming. These efforts are known as greenwashing – claiming environmental contributions, which do not really exist, for promotional purposes (Lyon and Montgomery 2015).


As organizations move toward becoming ever more flexible and less centrally managed entities, their ability to work on behalf of the biophysical world is further diminished. The notion of sustainability and sustainable development, the dominant environmental discourse today, seeks to reconcile environmentalism with advanced capitalism in defense of consumer culture. This dis- course dovetails with organizational goals, broadly construed. To organize society for environmental protection and stave off the adverse impacts of climate change, we must move away from an anthropocentric sustainability discourse toward a biocentric discourse – one with ecosystems at the center. We must also work to convince organizations and their regulatory apparatuses to transform accounting practices and require that firms internalize the environmental costs of production and pass those costs on to the consumer.


▶ Bureaucracy and Capitalism
▶ Globalization and Organizations
▶ Max Weber and Organizational Theory

▶ Organizational Environment
▶ Risk and Organizations


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