Many forms of climate activism do not require placards

‘Climate activism is everywhere – and not just on the streets,’ claim authors of new book

 A new book documents the ‘transformation’ of climate activism, arguing it has gone beyond the streets to exist in new and unexpected forms.

In Climate Activism: How Communities Take Renewable Energy Actions Across Business and Society, Professors Annika Skogland and Steffen Böhm, a Professor in Sustainability at the University of Exeter Business School in Cornwall, argue that climate activism has undergone a ‘transformation’ and that anyone working in any organisation can get involved.

“When it comes to climate activism, people normally think of Greta Thunberg, Fridays for Future strikers, or members of Extinction Rebellion,” the authors write in a post on the University of Exeter Business School’s Exeter Expertise blog.

“This form of street-based civil society action is vitally important in a democracy, but our book shows activism has transformed and is now going on everywhere – inside and across small and large corporations, local and national state agencies, NGOs of all sizes, and local producer and consumer groups in town and villages.”

Investor activists, the authors argue, can force the hands of the boards of multinational fossil fuel firms. They point to the board of ExxonMobil, to which members of a small hedge fund that included Finnish climate activist Kaia Hietala were elected last year, in a bid to force the company’s leadership to reckon with the risk of failing to adjust its business strategy to match global efforts to combat climate change.

They also highlight those working in senior positions in the corporate world who use their careers as springboards for bringing about positive change, such as Juliet Davenport, founder of renewable energy firm Good Energy, and Dale Vince, who founded Ecotricity in 1995.

But in a case study of Swedish energy firm Vattenfall, the authors found that insider activists within firms are often those making a “real difference”, as they focused their efforts on green projects beyond what was required of them, and changed practices where they could – even by walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift.

“We found that climate activism is being pursued in diverse ways, and sometimes in very unexpected corners of organisations," say the authors.

“We show in the book that we can find climate activists in all sorts of organisational settings. We interviewed employees in a local governmental council, for example, who clearly used their institutional positions to bring about social and environmental change through business and citizen groups.

“We also talked with what we call prosumer groups who set up renewable energy cooperatives via collaborations with businesses, seeking to take action on climate change into their own hands.

“This is a global community that exists through a new sort of ‘togetherness’, which is driven by a strong belief in renewable energy technology combined with social innovations that can elicit change, not only of the energy system, but the wider economic system too.”

Read more about the book on the Exeter Expertise blog and order a copy of Climate Activism: How Communities Take Renewable Energy Actions Across Business and Society here.

Date: 10 November 2022

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