Socio-ecological sustainability and transformation in the organisational context

Recent years have seen a global increase in natural disasters caused by extensive forest and bush fires, floods, droughts and habitat destruction for many people and other species. In addition, the worldwide inequality between prosperous countries in the global north and the impoverished countries of the global south is increasing. Climate change and the extinction of species, in addition to conflicts over scarce resources, are triggering a global increase in migration flows, and the political climate is aggravated by ideological and interest-led trench warfare. These and other ecological and social circumstances are symptoms which, in the Anthropocene era, can be described as man-made and which are closely connected with socio-economic systems and life models.

This development requires a high socio-ecological transformation pressure, which demands a systematic viewpoint and which is reflected, among other things, on the macroeconomic and political, but also on the socio-cultural and individual level. From a socio-philosophical point of view, this holistic transformation comprises both deeply embedded social structures and the social and individual agency of social protagonists. It requires that we question familiar economic, ecological, social and cultural systems and actions that we have taken for granted. It is only through this critical analysis and evaluation that holistic transformation paths towards socio-ecologically sustainable ways of life can be developed and disseminated.

This research area of the NCT-NIT is therefore directly concerned with socio-ecological sustainability, and specifically with transformation in the social and organisational context. The organisational context is understood in this connection as an overarching term of organisational research, which includes all possible forms of human interaction and cooperation for an intended purpose. Within sustainability and transformation research, therefore, the focus is not only on companies and firms but also on alternative economic organisational forms such as cooperatives, collectives, grass-roots movements and other organisational forms with a socio-ecological orientation and objective. The change pressure in the direction of sustainable transformation requires a holistic view of the types of human organisational forms, which requires a multidisciplinary academic discussion.

This research specialisation of the NCT-NIT is currently particularly concerned with questions of growth in terms of social systems, as well as with organisational implications and approaches to change in particular. Since at least the 1970s, the growth imperative of economic systems and political forms of governance has provided an extensive field of research which intensively engages with the socio-ecological consequences. In the last few years, the post-growth movement, as well as the internationally broadly represented Degrowth movement, have developed a solid academic research field which not only critically examines the consequences of growth but also researches specific alternative models. Therefore, this part of the NCT-NIT is primarily concerned with research into alternative forms of organisation and work, which scientifically examines the social processes and structures of growth-critical and growth-independent organisational models.