20 May 2024

British Journal of Management (BJM) Special Issue Call for Papers

Learning to Manage in a Changing Climate Through Epistemic Change

British Journal of Managment (BJM) Special Issue Call for Papers

Learning to Manage in a Changing Climate Through Epistemic Change

Paper Submission Window: 10th June to 10th July 2025
Extended abstract deadline for paper development workshop (optional): 31st January 2025

Guest Editors:

COP 28, the UN Climate Change conference that took place in the United Arab Emirates, witnessed a significant gathering of business school educators. While this public display of solidarity demonstrates commitment towards the planet, their presence raises the question whether business schools are adequately preparing managers who possess the knowledge to manage in a changing climate. From a scholarly perspective, our special issue asks, are business schools doing enough to undo the epistemic roots of managerialist regimes which prioritise profits over planetary considerations? Recent environmental scandals, including the Fundão Dam collapse in Brazil, the Doce River basin catastrophe, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, alongside visible indicators of the climate change, like the Amazonian wildfires and flooding in Southern Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia, perhaps portray the grim reality of the prevailing managerial regimes in action (e.g., Kuldova and Nordric, 2023; Matos et al., 2022; Rotta et al., 2020). These happenings urge us to consider the environmental impact of businesses beyond managerial mishaps, to challenge the dominant epistemic regimes circulating in business schools, whose foundations are grounded in the historic legacies of capitalist industrialisation, colonisation, and dispossession of society (Koshy et al., 2022; McLaren, 2020; McKeon and Berron, 2020; Rodríguez, 2022).  

This special issue aspires to open spaces for new lines of inquiry to rethink business and management education beyond profits. We believe thinking along these lines involves a commitment to finding different ways of educating managers and managers-to-be who can shift the responsibility and the ‘locus of ethicality’ back to the enterprise (Rhodes, 2022, p.497; see also Ford et al., 2010). Managers with such an orientation will have the capacity to ideate, articulate and implement nature-preserving sustainable practices throughout their business and stakeholder networks (e.g., Serafeim, 2022). We invite articles in the special issue which underscore the critical role of business schools in driving epistemic change and transforming managerial thought by embodying a duty of care towards their natural environment (Adler, 2002; Ferlie et al., 2010; Gill, 2020; Vos and Page, 2020). Articles will look to advance theory by rethinking prevailing epistemic regimes to find alternatives to tackle neoliberal logics, rationality, and the profit-driven psyche of managers, which questionably directs sustainability efforts of the enterprise only by reimagining capitalism (Augustine et al., 2019; Cornelissen and Clarke, 2010; Luan et al., 2019; Mithani, 2020).

Our envisioned environmental duty of care for managers entails a commitment to responsible and sustainable stewardship: urging businesses to re-evaluate their practices, lead emphatic change, and prioritise ecological well-being (see Heuer, 2012; Nyberg et al., 2018; Wright and Nyberg, 2015). Through this special issue, we call for a radical response to the managerial knowledge crisis that prioritises capital gains over value creation through environmental conservation (e.g., Hart and Milstein, 2003; Maclagan, 1990). This involves challenging the existing frameworks and (geo-)epistemic regimes of managerialism, which are shaped by colonial matrices and capitalist discourses of materiality (MacIntyre, 1995; 1999; Wright et al., 2013). Critically examining the episteme of managerialism can offer a way to question the taken for granted assumptions underpinning managerial agency and the very existence of the enterprise (see Chandler, 1992). We believe this will require new approaches to study business school curricula, pedagogies, and practices across economic, cultural, social, and political contexts (Capano, 2020; Kauko and Wermke, 2018; Scherer and Palazzo, 2007). These approaches will have the capacity to undo and rethink dominant managerial frameworks as they reproduce ideas of corporate populism and economic growth which lead to the depletion of natural resources (Kaul and Luo, 2018; Nyberg and Murray, 2023; Rhodes, 2021).

Liberating the managerial episteme from its ecocidal focus on accumulation of privileges and profitability will require a concerted consciousness-raising effort by business schools and society at large. Managerialist regimes prioritising capital gains are likely to trivialise the duality inherent in the productivity versus sustainability debate (e.g., Delbridge and Keenoy, 2010; McLaren, 2020). Our call for epistemic change argues for emancipating managers who can embrace this duality and challenge the subtle forms of capitalism emerging in response to the climate crisis (e.g., Elgin, 2013; Malan and Kriger, 1998; Kaul and Luo, 2018; Nyberg and Murray, 2023; Wright and Nyberg, 2015). A key feature of epistemic change is reflective practice (see Hibbert et al., 2022; Raelin, 2007) and the ability to become critical of the conventional managerialist ideologies which prioritize profitability. We encourage contributors to explore pathways to bring about such epistemic change in business schools by disentangling climate change from capitalist discourses (see Wittneben et al., 2012). These pathways can identify theoretical nuances for embedding eco-thinking as business schools look to cultivate a new generation of managers equipped to navigate the complexities of the climate crisis while upholding ethical and environmentally sustainable values.

Contributors can draw upon multiple perspectives, variety of methodologies and methods, inter/trans-disciplinary approaches, and philosophical paradigms in the (de-)construction of prevalent managerialist epistemologies (e.g., Capano, 2020; Kauko and Wermke, 2018). We believe there is scope for business schools to learn also from alternative perspectives, which challenge the dominant narratives of managerialism, such as advocating for a subalternised scholarship that critiques the managerialist episteme through colonial, racial and patriarchal lenses (see Ergene et al., 2021). Alternative perspectives can foster a more inclusive and critically engaged approach to conventional managerial education which overlooks the disproportionate impact of climate change across the globe. Understandably, shifting the managerial mindset will not be an easy or a straightforward process for business schools. This will require knowing the dimensions of epistemic change, i.e., legacies that shape the very notion of managerialism as well as the complicated relationship between epistemic regulation, agency, and freedom (e.g., Hardy and Tolhurst, 2014; Jacob and Hellström, 2018; Raelin, 2007).

Our special issue, thus, raises three grounding questions for managerial education, knowledge, and development across business schools as managers learn to manage in a changing climate:

  1. What are the alternatives to managerialist epistemologies of climate change?
  2. Can business schools change from being agents of capitalism to agents of holistic change by promoting epistemological shifts to save the planet?
  3. How can business schools address different aspects of the environmental crisis, whether categorised as 'environmental' or 'non-environmental,' and elucidate the connections between them?

These questions try to refocus the attention of business schools to move beyond existing epistemic regimes to develop managers who are environmentally aware and capable of adopting a system-wide (or holistic) approach (see Grewatsch et al., 2021). We believe this involves de-prioritising shareholder primacy in favour of a broader ecological perspective in pedagogy, curricula and scholarship as managers learn to understand the impact of their decisions on the natural environment (Civera and Freeman, 2019; Driscoll and Starik, 2004; Zeyen et al., 2016;). Articles in the special issue can also look to advance theory around pedagogies which disrupt modernist binaries that underpin managerial capitalism, and the teachings on its historical evolution across industries, geographic regions, and more globally (see Malm, 2019; Moore, 2016; Morris et al., 2008).

Despite the numerous pledges declaring climate emergency and the recent failures of the enterprise to protect the environment (Colombo, 2023), business schools must find ways to promote eco-conscience (or reflection) among managers as an epistemic tool to guide eco-friendly growth of the enterprise (e.g., Banerjee, 2012; Hibbert, 2013; Miettinen and Virkkunen, 2005; Vos and Page, 2020). Our special issue also acknowledges the antithetical notion of ‘degrowth’ when it comes to climate change, which explicitly challenges economic models premised on green capitalism (see Banerjee et al., 2021). While degrowth offers potential solutions to environmental problems (Bonaiuti, 2012), it overlooks the underlying dynamics of socio-ecological transformations (Ehrnström-Fuentes and Biese, 2023). The degrowth programme perhaps fails to fully acknowledge ‘the impact on the local economy’ and the need ‘to address global anthropogenic change from a transnational political perspective’; for example, what it encompasses for people in the emerging economies and their everyday lives (Schwartzman, 2012, p.119).

We argue the climate crisis encompasses not only environmental aspects but also 'non-environmental' facets that need acknowledgement (Fraser, 2022). A question thus arises as to how business schools can navigate the idea that some industries will evolve, and some might fail to survive in tandem with the naturalisation of necropolitics, especially throughout the global South, which determine how some people may live and how some must die (Goyes et al., 2024). Another characteristic of epistemic change is questioning the historical focus of business schools on the positioning of the enterprise as a going-concern in the age of climate change, which neglects the environmental impact of businesses (see Sterling, 1968; Morris et al., 2008; Waddock, 2020; Wright and Nyberg, 2016). We argue that the current spell of wokeness being experienced by business schools with the addition of curricula around ethics, corporate social responsibility and environmental, social, and governance is simply not enough (e.g., Mavin et al., 2023; Rhodes, 2022). The sudden consciousness around climate change without considering the epistemic roots of managerialism only serves to maintain existing versions of capitalism, albeit in newer rebranded ways (Rhodes, 2021). They cleanse managerial conscience and benefit the enterprise as a moral distraction (and ‘failure of sympathy’) that entertains public sentiments but brings no real change (see Doris, 2020).

To conclude, our special issue emphasizes the necessity of an epistemic shift when developing managers and managers-to-be who are ecologically conscious of their decisions (see Goworek et al., 2018). The collection of articles in this issue will showcase the power of various types of epistemic regimes in circulation and the control they wield over managerial education in and around business schools. Through these studies, we hope to gain insights into the structuring powers of managerialist ideologies grounded in capitalism, and the dynamics of epistemic disagreement around the duality of the enterprise (see Battilana et al., 2022; Currie et al., 2010). Articles will also demonstrate the ability to examine frameworks that govern, regulate, and legitimise managerial knowledge within and through business school pedagogies, curricula, and practices (see Snelson-Powell et al., 2016). In doing so, we encourage contributors to consider implications for epistemic agency in conditions of (im-)possibility, reforming managerial beliefs and encouraging ecological thinking; thus, bringing to fore the complexities inherent in the duality of managing businesses and showing environmental stewardship. Taking this opportunity, we would like to end by emphasising that epistemic change is not just about embracing a new mission; it demands epistemic undoing of managerialist regimes exploiting and dispossessing 'nature' for the sake of a dehumanising project of humanity.

Suggested Themes/Topics

An indicative but not exhaustive list of questions that we are interested in addressing through submissions for this special issue will centre around the following topics and debates:

  • How can managerial education promote empathy and effective leadership in addressing climate change?
  • Is there a possibility for climate activism in business schools beyond moral justifications of corporate social responsibility (CSR), environmental, social, and governance (ESG) approaches, woke hypocrisy, and greenwashing?
  • Are business schools promoting greenwashing and offering templates for symbolic approaches to managing with respect to climate change?
  • Can business schools be conceptualised as social enterprises in promoting ecological and environmental thinking to tackle climate change?
  • How can management pedagogies support holistic thinking and enhance managers' reflexivity in becoming environmentally responsible agents of change?
  • How can business schools transform managerial ethics to raise awareness about their duty of care towards the natural environment?
  • How does the current manifestation of capitalism and its managerial arm shape business school values, beliefs, and knowledge as they relate to nature and climate change?
  • What challenges will business school leaders, scholars, educators, and students face as they aspire to achieve Net Zero?
  • By what mechanisms can business schools as institutions influence industry partners (and their stakeholders) to address the effects of climate change?
  • How can business school leaders promote environmental sustainability in their organising of management learning and education?
  • What do alternative perspectives on management education, such as indigenous communities, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), decolonisation, or issues of climate justice, offer to environmental sustainability in developing managers?
  • How can business schools foster global collaboration on climate change, driving epistemic shifts among managers across North-South divides?
  • What possibilities are there for technology (e.g., AI) to educate business graduates without algorithmic bias towards profitability?
  • How can business schools play a pivotal role in combating climate change dis/misinformation, reshaping managerial epistemologies to prioritise evidence-based sustainability actions?
  • What kind of resistance (and resilience) should business schools expect as they encourage managers to think critically and reflectively about their natural environment?
  • How can business schools help re-think managerial identities in relation to climate crisis and the political work of corporate environmentalism?
  • Can business schools legitimise and empower NGOs, advocacy groups and social enterprises to lead innovative climate change initiatives, fostering epistemic shifts towards sustainability-driven business practices?
  • Does a public display of solidarity at global/local events, e.g. resulting in some kind of explicit sustainability commitment, ranking or a league table competition, constrain or support systemic change in business schools?
  • How can research in business schools be leveraged to promote sustainable consumption patterns and environmentally responsible decisions among managers?
  • How can lessons from sustainable business practices be used in classrooms to inform managers or managers-to-be to address climate change?
  • How can business school curricula and pedagogies promote eco-conscious forms of management to develop managers adept at optimising resources, minimising waste and mitigating environmental impact?
  • Can managerial knowledge of business practices be reimagined to incorporate sustainability metrics and practices beyond the economics of profit making?
  • Can historical narratives and business cases provide valuable teaching opportunities for triggering epistemic change among managers and managers-to-be?
  • What are the perspectives of business/management school students on teaching for eco-consciousness and practice?

Submission guidelines, events and deadlines

The British Journal of Management (BJM) is the premier journal of the British Academy of Management and publishes high-quality research on a range of management-related topics. Our special issue welcomes theoretical and empirical contributions that employ a variety of philosophical, methodological, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches to explore pathways to achieving epistemic change during managerial development within and through business school education.

The deadline for submissions to this special issue is 10th July 2025.

Authors should ensure they adhere to the journal author guidelines which are available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1467-8551/homepage/ForAuthors.html. Submissions should be uploaded to the BJM ScholarOne Manuscripts site at http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/bjm. Authors should select ‘special issue paper’ as the paper type. Please ensure you answer, ‘yes’ to the question, ‘Is this submission for a special issue?’ and enter the title of the special issue in the box provided [‘Learning to manage in a changing climate through epistemic change’].

To help authors prepare their manuscripts for submission, the guest editors have planned two events for further guidance. The first will be an in-person ‘BJM Impact’ event held at University of Bath in December 2024 where aspiring authors can engage with the editorial team and leading scholars on the topic of the Special Issue; whereas the second event will be a hybrid paper development workshop (PDW) hosted by Lancaster University in March 2025 with presentations and discussion of selected papers. Please note that presentation of a paper or attendance at this workshop will not be a precondition for submission to the Special Issue. Those interested in taking part in the PDW will be asked to submit an extended abstract of 3000 words by 31st January 2025. There will also be an online feedback session exclusively for authors who receive an invitation to revise and resubmit their manuscripts for the special issue. Details of the Bath-BJM Impact event and the Lancaster PDW will be posted in due course on BJM website and social media handles, including BAM forums. Those authors who are successful in receiving an invitation to revise and resubmit their paper, the special issue editorial team will reach out to them with details of the online session.  

For further enquiries about the scope of the special issue, please contact the guest editorial team via email.


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