Towards a model of the institutional logics of climate change

Bartlett, Jennifer L., Tywoniak, Stephane, & Newton, Cameron J. (2009) Towards a model of the institutional logics of climate change. In Proceedings of : EGOS 2009 : 25th European Group for Organizational Studies Conference, Barcelona, Spain.


The proliferation of innovative schemes to address climate change at international, national and local levels signals a fundamental shift in the priority and role of the natural environment to society, organizations and individuals. This shift in shared priorities invites academics and practitioners to consider the role of institutions in shaping and constraining responses to climate change at multiple levels of organisations and society.

Institutional theory provides an approach to conceptualising and addressing climate change challenges by focusing on the central logics that guide society, organizations and individuals and their material and symbolic relationship to the environment. For example, framing a response to climate change in the form of an emission trading scheme evidences a practice informed by a capitalist market logic (Friedland and Alford 1991). However, not all responses need necessarily align with a market logic. Indeed, Thornton (2004) identifies six broad societal sectors each with its own logic (markets, corporations, professions, states, families, religions). Hence, understanding the logics that underpin successful –and unsuccessful– climate change initiatives contributes to revealing how institutions shape and constrain practices, and provides valuable insights for policy makers and organizations.

This paper develops models and propositions to consider the construction of, and challenges to, climate change initiatives based on institutional logics (Thornton and Ocasio 2008). We propose that the challenge of understanding and explaining how climate change initiatives are successfully adopted be examined in terms of their institutional logics, and how these logics evolve over time. To achieve this, a multi-level framework of analysis that encompasses society, organizations and individuals is necessary (Friedland and Alford 1991). However, to date most extant studies of institutional logics have tended to emphasize one level over the others (Thornton and Ocasio 2008: 104). In addition, existing studies related to climate change initiatives have largely been descriptive (e.g. Braun 2008) or prescriptive (e.g. Boiral 2006) in terms of the suitability of particular practices. This paper contributes to the literature on logics by examining multiple levels: the proliferation of the climate change agenda provides a site in which to study how institutional logics are played out across multiple, yet embedded levels within society through institutional forums in which change takes place. Secondly, the paper specifically examines how institutional logics provide society with organising principles –material practices and symbolic constructions– which enable and constrain their actions and help define their motives and identity. Based on this model, we develop a series of propositions of the conditions required for the successful introduction of climate change initiatives.

The paper proceeds as follows. We present a review of literature related to institutional logics and develop a generic model of the process of the operation of institutional logics. We then consider how this is applied to key initiatives related to climate change. Finally, we develop a series of propositions which might guide insights into the successful implementation of climate change practices.

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ID Code: 29029
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Climate Change, Institutional Logics , Model
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT (150300) > Business and Management not elsewhere classified (150399)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Australian Centre for Business Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Accountancy
Current > Schools > School of Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2009 please contact the authors
Deposited On: 04 Dec 2009 01:39
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2011 13:55

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