Business & Society Special Issue: A New Future for Business? Rethinking Management Theory and Business Strategy

Martina Linnenluecke and Andrew Griffiths discuss their article in the Special Issue of Business & Society: “Beyond Adaptation: Resilience for Business in Light of Climate Change and Weather Extremes”

Who is the target audience for this article?  

In line with Business & Society editorial policy, the article is targeted at researchers, leaders, and decision-makers. The article is interdisciplinary in nature and argues that new conceptual and practical approaches are needed to consider the effects of climate change and a greater occurrence of weather extremes in corporate strategy and decision-making. The article synthesizes thought from multiple disciplines across management and the natural sciences, and seeks to address a broad readership such as those interested in organizational adaptation, resilience, and environmental change. The article received attention in the public press – the German Financial Times recently published a feature story on the article and our research on firm resilience to climate change. 

http://www.ftd.de/karriere-management/management/:folgen-des-klimawandels-vorbereitung-auf-den-wetter-gau/50161852.html) German 

What Inspired You To Be Interested In This Topic? 

 The initial inspiration to look into climate change, weather extremes and organizations came from a chat we (the two authors) had over a cup of coffee at our Business School’s Rooftop Café. During this conversation, we discussed the devastating impacts Cyclone Larry had on Australia’s banana and sugarcane production, and the difficulties for firms to respond to such unprecedented events in their natural environment. Cyclone Larry wiped out about 75% to 90% of banana production in affected regions in North Queensland (Australia). The resulting shortage of bananas had not only direct impacts on affected firms and communities, but also significant flow-on effects in form of price rises and impacts on inflation. While Cyclone Larry was an insolated event, it occurred to us that we needed a better understanding of weather extremes and their impacts on firm and industrial activities, especially given the projected systematic changes of the Earth’s climate as a consequence of a global increase in atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide. 

We decided that there was a need to investigate this topic further, and it became subsequently the topic for the PhD thesis of Dr. Martina Linnenluecke (Linnenluecke, 2010) with Professor Andrew Griffiths as principal and Associate Professor Monika Winn as associate advisor. We presented initial conceptual work at the 2008 Academy of Management Conference (Linnenluecke et al., 2008) which won the Carolyn Dexter Best International Paper Award. The conference paper combined work from Dr. Linnenluecke’s thesis on organizational adaptation and resilience to extreme weather events with insights from her advisors’ work on climate change strategy and massive discontinuous change (Griffiths & Winn, 2005; Winn & Kirchgeorg, 2005). 

The paper published in Business & Society seeks to build on and extend this earlier work, and develops a more comprehensive understanding of organizational resilience to weather extremes by linking observations on organizational resilience to debates on resilience in the field of ecology. There was scope to draw on the resilience concept in ecology as this domain has a long history of studying the resilience of ecosystems and socio-ecological systems under often severe and abrupt changes in natural environmental conditions. 

Were There Findings That Were Surprising To You?  

When writing the paper, we noticed that much of current organization research and practice focus on adjustments to economic factors of competition, such as technology, innovation or emission regulation. It appeared to us that physical impacts from climate change and weather extremes are generally not well understood and – if at all – included in management approaches as a risk factor rather than an as strategic issue of organizational resilience and survival. Given the vulnerabilities of sectors such as energy, automotive, infrastructure development, agriculture, we felt that there was a need to better understand consequences of climate change and changes in weather extremes for organizations as well as their resilience to such discontinuities.  

How Do You See This Study Influencing Future Research And/Or Practice?  

We see the contributions of this paper as being twofold: First, the paper draws in new insights from the literature on resilience across disciplines and provides insights into how this literature can be integrated into the management literature. Second, the paper advances a theoretical understanding of the concepts of adaptation and resilience and their applicability to deal with different types of climate change impacts. The frameworks and insights developed in the paper are intended as a basis for further theoretical and empirical development for understanding how organizations can respond and adapt to rapid changes in their natural environment. More broadly, given not only the threat of climate change, but also developments such as increased risk of terrorist attacks and financial system shocks, the advancement of organizational resilience might offer benefits against a range of adverse impacts. 

How Does This Study Fit Into Your Body Of Work/Line Of Research?    

Professor Andrew Griffiths was among the first researchers to study corporate adaptation to long-term global climate change. His areas of research include: the impact of climate change on business strategy (e.g., Haigh & Griffiths, 2009); corporate culture and change for corporate sustainability (e.g., Jones et al., 2005; Linnenluecke et al., 2009; Linnenluecke & Griffiths, 2010); strategic issues relating to the pursuit of corporate sustainability; and institutional government systems and sustainability (e.g., Griffiths et al., 2007; Griffiths & Zammuto, 2005). Andrew has published three books, Organisational Change for Sustainability (Dunphy et al., 2007), Sustainability (Dunphy et al., 2000), and The Sustainable Corporation (Dunphy & Griffiths, 1998). 

Dr. Martina Linnenluecke’s area of expertise is the adaptation and resilience of organizations to climate change and weather extremes, and the study discussed here forms part of her doctoral thesis (Linnenluecke, 2010). For her doctoral research, Dr. Linnenluecke has been the recipient of a University of Queensland International Research Award and of a Smart State Ph.D. Research Grant from the Queensland State Government, Department of the Premier and Cabinet. She has also undertaken research into sustainability and sustainable organizational culture of organizations (Linnenluecke et al., 2009; Linnenluecke & Griffiths, 2010). 

How Did Your Paper Change During The Review Process?    

We were guided by the advice from three excellent reviews of the paper and a very knowledgeable editorial team consisting of Professors Hahn, Kolk and Winn. Apart from structural changes, the most significant addition as part of the review process was the resilience framework which we incorporated to systematically identify different stages of organizational resilience, and to outline corresponding resilient organizational strategies and responses. 

The framework that we incorporated into the paper connects the different aspects of the paper into a coherent framework. It also clarifies the notion of organizational resilience and facilitates a systematic discussion of organizational resources, capabilities and response strategies for each of the different stages in the framework model. 

What, If Anything, Would You Do Differently If You Could Go Back And Do This Study Again?  

After undergoing the review process we have developed many new insights – it would have certainly helped to have these insights ‘in advance’. However, we see the development of new knowledge and insights as an essential part and outcome of the review process. The two iterations of the paper have certainly helped to bring it into better focus.       

References  

Dunphy, D. C., & Griffiths A. 1998. The sustainable corporation: Organisational renewal in Australia. Sydney: Allen and Unwin. 

Dunphy, D. C., Griffiths, A., & Benn, S. 2007. Organizational change for corporate sustainability: A guide for leaders and change agents of the future. London; New York: Routledge. 

Dunphy, D. C., Griffiths, A., Beneviste, J., & Sutton, P. 2000. Sustainability: Corporate challenge for the 21st Century. Sydney: Allen and Unwin. 

Griffiths, A. B., & Zammuto, R. F. 2005. Institutional governance systems and variations in national competitive advantage: An integrative framework. Academy of Management Review, 30(4): 823-842. 

Griffiths, A., & Winn, M. I. 2005. Slack and sustainability. Paper presented at the Academy of Management Meetings. Hawaii. 

Griffiths, A., Haigh, N., & Rassias, J. 2007. A framework for understanding institutional governance systems and climate change: The case of Australia. European Management Journal, 25(6): 415-427. 

Haigh, N., & Griffiths, A. 2009. The natural environment as a primary stakeholder: The case of climate change. Business Strategy and the Environment, 18(6): 347-359. 

Jones, R. A., Jimmieson, N. L., & Griffiths, A. 2005. The impact of organizational culture and reshaping capabilities on change implementation success: The mediating role of readiness for change. Journal of Management Studies, 42(2): 361-386. 

Linnenluecke, M. K. 2010. Organizational adaptation and resilience to extreme weather events. Doctoral Thesis, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. 

Linnenluecke, M. K., & Griffiths, A. 2010. Corporate sustainability and organizational culture. Journal of World Business, 45(4): 357–366. 

Linnenluecke, M. K., Griffiths, A., & Winn, M. I. 2008. Organizational adaptation and resilience to extreme weather events. Paper presented at the Annual Meetings of the Academy of Management, Anaheim. Recipient of the Carolyn Dexter Best International Paper Award. 

Linnenluecke, M. K., Russell, S. V., & Griffiths, A. 2009. Subcultures and sustainability practices: the impact on understanding corporate sustainability. Business Strategy and the Environment, 18(7): 432-452. 

Winn, M. I., & Kirchgeorg, M. 2005. The siesta is over: A rude awakening from sustainability myopia. In S. Sharma, & J. A. Aragón-Correa (Eds.), Corporate Environmental Strategy and Competitive Advantage. Cheltenham, UK; North Hampton, MA: Edward Elgar. 

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See Martina and Andrew’s blog here: http://climatechangeadaptation.wordpress.com/
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