Policy makers all over the world increasingly choose nudges from the toolbox to combat challenges of society including public health and the environment. However, when we embrace nudges we should not only consider their benefits for society. We should also ask: Do people approve of using them, and why?
Nudges cover different interventions that steer people in certain directions. They can be everything from warnings on tobacco products to defaults for green energy. What is important: A nudge always allows people to choose themselves – and to opt out of a default. The approval of nudges is the focus of my new article written with co-authors Cass Sunstein and Micha Kaiser, recently published in the Journal of European Public Policy. Our analysis draws on an international survey from five countries: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, South Korea and the US. We asked a representative group of people in these countries if they approve of 15 widely used health and environmental nudges. We also checked for a long list of socio-economic, psychological, and social variable – including their trust in public institutions.
Most people do
A high level of support for nudges exists across countries and cultures. This is what we had found in earlier studies in about 25 countries worldwide. Yet differences in attitude show up across various beliefs, traits, and behaviours. Women and people with marked environmental concern are most likely to approve. At the same time, conservatives are less likely to do so. We see the force of behaviour when, for instance, a “meat-free Monday” in a cafeteria is less well supported by meat-eaters. Interestingly, this also applies to smokers who tend to disapprove of government anti-smoking campaigns.
Trust is a must
While our analysis points to several findings, one might outshine the others. Approval comes with trust. To be more specific, we find the trust in public institutions strongly connected with social approval. In other words, when people have high trust in, e.g., government or police, they are likely to be supportive towards nudges. As expected, those who strongly believe in the free market to solve challenges of society will be less in favour.
Openness and transparency
The finding of trust gives a very important lesson. We should make sure to cultivate trust in arguing for nudges. Even though most people already approve of nudges, policy makers should not rest on their laurels but rather engage citizens in the development of new policies and ways of assessing their cost-effectiveness and acceptance. The best way to obtain trust is to earn it, and to invite citizens to participate. This is why we propose a “bill of rights for nudging” that sketches out the rules a government should follow when using nudging as a policy tool. Transparent rules and processes tend to create trust in institutions.
Lucia A. Reisch is Full Professor for Consumer Behaviour and Consumer Policy at Copenhagen Business School.
Cass R. Sunstein, Lucia A. Reisch & Micha Kaiser (2018): Trusting nudges? Lessons from an international survey, Journal of European Public Policy, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2018.1531912
Bring sustainability into the business school mainstream by aligning with schools’ existing practices: technical, political, and cultural.
Sustainable business has been taught and researched in business schools for decades. For nearly as long, proponents have warned about barriers to genuine integration of sustainability in business schools.
Sustainability Centres in Business Schools
In a recent article, we and our co-authors Sareh Pouryousefi and Ethan Schoolman looked at the role of sustainability centres in achieving this fit. Our analysis drew on a survey of directors of sustainability centres and interviews with ten of these centre directors. We found that leading sustainability centres seek to achieve three types of fit between their own practices and those of their business schools, in order to promote integration.
The types of fit are:
Technical. Centres achieve technical fit — i.e. alignment with existing organisational structures- by ensuring that sustainability topics are taught in a mix of core and elective programmes in different disciplines.
Political. Centres achieve strong political fit by aligning with the interests of school leaders in order to develop sustainability practices as a brand for the school.
Cultural. Centres achieve cultural fit — i.e. alignment with the cultural values of the wider organisation — somewhat counterintuitively. They do it by not defining terms such as ‘sustainability’ or setting fixed boundaries around their work; instead, they interpret research themes loosely to include colleagues with related research interests.
A centre may pursue one kind of fit, but because these types of fit are highly interrelated, actions in one area (technical, cultural, political) will affect the others.
On the one hand, they can positively reinforce each other towards better integration. The existence of cultural and technical fit will encourage collaboration. The presence of cultural and political fit will boost legitimacy. Political and technical fit will strengthen resources devoted to sustainability.
The challenge of fit
Centres that manage to achieve higher levels of fit across domains feel more secure about the long-term prospects of their centre. None of the centre representatives we spoke to felt that they had a complete alignment in all three areas of fit. But centres saw benefits when they had a good degree of fit in two or more areas, or were working towards fit in multiple areas. In these cases, directors felt that their centres’ purpose transcended the individuals associated with them, guarding them against future political headwinds, such as lack of interest from senior management.
Barriers to fit remain even at leading schools. This is because sustainability centres usually present some challenge to assumptions of others at business schools — often including Deans.
Our research shows that lack of fit in one domain may also impact the other domains. For example, a centre might have a high level of political fit through support from the Dean, but low cultural fit because it tightly defines sustainability in contrast with wider business school values. That centre may also struggle to achieve high levels of technical fit.
These elements are important even for sustainability centres that purposefully avoid integration with those wider business school practices which they deem wholly antithetical to sustainability. These centres can still attend to issues of political, technical and cultural fit as they choose strategies for carrying out their teaching, research, and engagement activities.
Rieneke Slager is Assistant Professor at the University of Groningen. Jeremy Moon is Velux Professor of Corporate Responsibility at Copenhagen Business School.
Ethnographies of the global value chain of certified tea (SUSTEIN)
By Hannah Elliott, Martin Skrydstrup and Matthew Archer.
Currently, the world’s tea industry is on a race with time to source tea sustainably before 2020. But what is “sustainable tea” and how do we know if tea is sustainable or not? This project entitled SUSTEIN (SUStainable TEa INfrastructure) will focus on this question by way of looking at localized translations of transnational sustainability standards in Kenya, United Arab Emirates and corporate headquarters in Europe. We aim to advance our understanding of the global value chain of certified tea.
3 Research lines
The theoretical objective is to venture beyond the notion of global value chain by reinterpreting sustainable supply chain management through the concept of infrastructure, a notion anthropologists and other social scientists have deployed in recent years to emphasize the political and temporal aspects of networks such as transnational supply chains. We hope that this concept will allow us to better comprehend how sustainable certification schemes manifest in global value chains. SUSTEIN consists of three sub projects, which each address a core question posed by the project:
How does certification shape agrarian production in the form of cultivation and factory processing, and vice versa? Who benefits from which sustainability standards? (Line A)
How does certification influence the valuation of tea, assessed in terms of taste, grade and price? How is the value of certification performed and capitalized? (Line B)
How do corporate professionals and independent auditors distinguish between “sustainable/unsustainable”? What lines of evidence are recognized? (Line C)
Each of these questions will be answered by the corresponding research line:
Research line A
explores agrarian questions, enquiring into the ways contemporary drives towards sustainability shape and are shaped by modes of tea production in Kenya. The research focuses on the institution of the tea plantation and its associated factories and outgrower farms, all key components of the infrastructure of sustainable tea. The tea plantation has been described as having a “dual character” (Besky 2008: 1); it has its roots in British colonialism while being contemporarily positioned in international markets for certified sustainable commodities. This research line enquires into what ‘sustainability’ comes to mean and materialise within this apparently contradictory setting. How do contemporary measures seeking to ensure sustainable tea production, such as certified standards, affect the way tea is produced in the context of the plantation? And to what extent do longer-standing modes of plantation production endure through the present, in turn shaping contemporary sustainability ideologies and practices? The research line addresses these questions through ethnographic inquiry. The researcher will spend time with the people working on tea plantations and in factories certified by different certification bodies and on the farms of outgrowers contracted to supply the companies owning plantations with supplementary sustainable tea. Through interviews and participant observation, the ethnographer will enquire into the social, political and ethical worlds surrounding sustainable tea production in contemporary Kenya.
Research line B
will follow through on the plantation and factory sites to the auction sites in Mombasa and Dubai. Ethnographic fieldwork will be conducted in the Jebel Ali Free Zone in Dubai with no tax regulations, no strict labor laws nor import/export duties, making it the perfect infrastructural hub to blend and pack tea according to corporate logic. Likely as an outcome of this, the Dubai Tea Trading Centre has since its establishment in 2005 risen to re-export 60% of the world’s tea production. These volumes are predominantly traded on virtual platforms. In contrast, the Mombasa Tea Auction holds two weekly auctions under the auspices of the East African Tea Trade Association (EATTA), which conforms to national regulations (Tea Act of Kenya & Tea Board of Kenya). Recently, this auction site voted “against the mouse and for the hammer,” maintaining the tradition of the Dutch auction style vs. virtual trading. The ethnography for this research line will move between these two sites, following tea blenders who purchase in Mombasa vs. Dubai and investigating tea expertise and technologies as it pertains to the valuation of certified tea.
Research line C
builds on these ethnographies of production and exchange to try and understand the relationship between corporations and standards/certification regimes. There is a tension between these groups of actors whereby standards organizations such as the Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade International need to appear independent in order for their certifications to remain credible while at the same time remaining sensitive to the financial obligations of for-profit corporations in order to promote “buy-in.” This research line will draw on interviews with people working in these organizations and participant observation at sites where they interact, including industry conferences and trade fairs. These are the sites where sustainability is negotiated as both a concept and as a set of practices. With that in mind, interview questions will focus on, among other things, the extent to which specific agricultural and trading practices are integrated into broader definitions of sustainability and their manifestation in different certification regimes, the challenges of maintaining a critical distance between certifiers and corporations, and the way standards govern markets and, crucially, vice versa.
SUSTEIN is made possible by the Sapere Aude Starting Grant (meaning “dare to know”), awarded by the Danish Council for Independent Research (DFF). The Sapere Aude program “is aimed at younger, very talented researchers, who at the time of the application deadline and within the last eight years have obtained their PhD”. The Sapere Aude program targets “top researchers who intend to gather a group of researchers, in order to carry out a research project at a high, international level.”
Besky, S. (2008) ‘Can a plantation be fair? Paradoxes and possibilities in Fair Trade Darjeeling tea certification’. Anthropology of Work, XXIX: 1, pp. 1-9.
Martin Skrydstrup is an associate professor in the Department of Management, Society, and Communication at Copenhagen Business School and is the principal investigator of SUSTEIN. He is also responsible for research line B.
Matthew Archer is an assistant professor in the Department of Management, Society, and Communication at Copenhagen Business School and is responsible for research line C. He recently completed his PhD in environmental studies at Yale University and is interested in corporate sustainability and sustainable finance.
In a year we hope to update BOS readers about how far we are with answering our research questions. In the meantime, we invite you to swing by our offices at Dalgas Have for a cup of tea. The SUSTEIN project runs from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2020. For further information about the project, please contact the principal investigator, Martin Skrydstrup, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Business models are logics of value
proposition (Pr), creation (Cr), exchange (Ex) and capture (Ca). When closely
looking at sustainability business models, it becomes clear that these ‘value
functions’ are not only shaped by a commercial logic, but also by one of
sustainability. Many of sustainability business models include further logics
of social welfare (e.g. social enterprises), and government (e.g. private-public
partnerships) (Laasch, 2018b). If a homogeneous commercial business model was an orange, these
business models are more like a heterogeneous mixture between an apple, a pear
and that orange, an ApPeaRange! Their value logics are not homogeneously
commercial, but heterogeneous mixtures.
Strange Fruit Everywhere
Heterogeneous value logics like the one of
sustainability business models are widespread. Imagine you peel an orange and
find an apple inside:
Over half of the FTSE100 corporations have
integrated a responsibility logic into their business model descriptions (Laasch & Pinkse, 2018). Many large businesses, such as LEGO, as well as SMEs are
family-run, integrating their commercial logic with a family logic (Laasch & Conaway, 2015). We may also think of the Chinese semi-conductor producer Goodark blending commercial logic with a
spiritual logic of Confucianism; the German car supplier Allsafe with its humanistic logic of freedom and responsibility; or
the Brownie bakery Greyston with its
commercial value logic firmly wrapped around a social welfare logic (Laasch et al., 2018).
Once opening our eyes to the variety of
‘values’, of normative orientations and purposes businesses are oriented towards
Laasch, 2016), the perceived number of companies adhering to
a purely commercial value logic shrinks considerably. While the purely
commercial business model might not be entirely dead, it sure shouldn’t be considered
the norm. And then there are entirely non-commercial organizations with value
Comparing APPLE and Oranges: Yes!
Isn’t comparing a commercial organization,
for instance, Apple and noncommercial organizations, let’s say a church, like
comparing Apple and oranges? Yes, cheap pun intended:
“…a commercial business like Apple. With a customer value proposition (Pr) of high quality and high-end design, it depends on highest-standard production processes (Cr) and on the ability to maintain high margins (Ca).”
Laasch, 2018b: 165.
It appears we have found a purely
commercial value logic, one that deserves the name BUSINESS model. Can we
analyze a non-business organization, for instance a church, the same way?
“…shaped by an institutional logic of religion. It may pursue a value proposition of spiritual salvation (Pr), by helping believers to live according to religious values through the provision of religious services from marriages and funerals to humanitarian aid (Cr), and exchange value in a global network of churches (Ex).”
Laasch, 2018b: 165.
It appears non-business organizations, while not having a BUSINESS model per se, do have an organizational value model of value proposition, creation, exchange and capture. Freeing the organizational value logic from its commercial business origins enables us to take a fresh look at any kind of organization: Churches, universities, NGOs, governments, your favorite sports club, you name it! Organizational value logics lend themselves to study, design, and improve all kinds of organizations.
How to Farm Strange Fruits?
It has been argued that one of the main
challenges of our times is to create companies and other organizations shaped
by alternative logics, be it the one of sustainability, or of social welfare. We
have seen that many organizations already have heterogeneous value logics. How
to change the ones that don’t? Three interrelated manifestations of organizational
value logics together form an organizational value model:
Cognition: An organizational value logic
manifests in organizational members’ cognitive structures, their mental models
and related decision making.
Activities: Value logics manifest in the
logic of action of the activity systems through which an organization’s value
model is enacted.
Artefacts: Value logics materialize in
physical form, as texts, or images, such as a business model description in the
annual report, factory layouts, or products.
Changing an organization’s value logic can start
in any of its manifestations. For instance, as a corporate responsibility
strategy circulated through a multinational retailer, the document’s
responsibility logic was translated into peoples’ mental models, new activities
and structures (Laasch, 2016,
2018a). In the companies Goodark, Allsafe, and
Greyston mentioned above, new practices centered on a humanistic value logic (Laasch et al.,
2018; Laasch, Dierksmeier, & Pirson, 2015) changed the networks of practices’ enacting their
business models (Boons, Laasch,
& Dierksmeier, 2018; Laasch et al., 2015). The emerging field of business model sociology
provides further insight into such change processes (Laasch, 2018c).
Boons, F., Laasch, O., & Dierksmeier,
C. 2018. Assembling organizational practices: The
evolving humanistic business model of Allsafe, 6th Asian SME Conference.
Laasch, O. 2016. Business model change through embedding
corporate responsibility-sustainability? Logics, devices, actor networks.
University of Manchester, Manchester.
Laasch, O. 2018a. An actor-network perspective on business models:
How ‘Being Responsible’ led to incremental, but pervasive change. Long
Range Planning, [DOI 10.16/j.lrp.2018.04.002].
Laasch, O. 2018b. Beyond the purely commercial business model:
Organizational value logics and the heterogeneity of sustainability business
models. Long Range Planning, 51(1): 158-183.
Laasch, O. 2018c. Business model sociology: Exploring alternative
lenses (not only) for the study of alternative business models. CRME
Working Papers, 4(4).
Laasch, O., & Conaway, R. 2015. Principles of responsible
management: Glocal sustainability, responsibility, ethics. Mason: Cengage.
Laasch, O., Dierksmeier, C.,
Livne-Tarandach, R., Pirson, M., Fu, P., & Qu, Q. 2018. Humanistic management performativity ‘in the wild’: The role of
performative bundles of practices, 32nd Annual Australian & New Zealand Academy
of Management (ANZAM) Conference. Auckland.
Laasch, O., Dierksmeier, C., & Pirson, M. 2015. Reality
proves possibility: Developing humanistic business models from paradigmatic
practice. Paper presented at the Academy of Management Annual
Laasch, O., & Pinkse, J. 2018. How the leopards got their spots:
A typology of corporate responsibility business models, 3rd Annual Conference on New
Business Models. Sofia.
Randles, S., & Laasch, O. 2016. Theorising the normative
business model (NBM). Organization & Environment,
How often do we as event coordinators ask ourselves: how can I minimize the plastic use, the waste, the paper? I could also reverse the question and ask: Could we imagine a smarter, more efficient and even more inspiring new way to host events?
We all know exactly what to expect when attending a conference. You receive a name tag when you register, which you usually throw in the waste bin when you leave. You get a plastic bottle of water, and when you are done with that, or even before you are done, you get another one. You get the conference programme and the participant list which you look at a couple of times before that goes into the waste bin. Often printed in colour.
Now, imagine attending a conference with no plastic bottles, no paper, no meat, and no food waste. Imagine, how this conference would increase the level of awareness, communication and engagement between the participants and the hosts. And ignite fruitful discussions because we would realize, how much we can actually achieve with little changes in our everyday lives.
In order to make sure that the sustainability initiatives implemented at the conference were the most sustainable solutions and had a high impact factor, the conference organizers allied themselves with a group of students from the Danish Technical University (DTU) who were doing a course on Life Cycle Assessments.
The students received 2 cases
How should the conference supply water?
How should the conference be catered?
Over the course of 4 months, the DTU student teams collected data from CBS and carried out life cycle assessments taking into account various impact factors such as production, transportation, use and disposal etc. Based on the results, all conference meals were vegetarian, and all conference participants received one glass bottle that could be filled from water dispensers throughout the entire conference.
The conference participants also received information about the sustainability initiatives that they could expect prior to the conference. The findings from the life cycle assessment were communicated on posters and on the back of the staff t-shirts. All conference staff engaged with the participants and assisted with water bottles and waste sorting. Furthermore, the conference participants were continuously encouraged to share feedback and discuss the attempts made with each other and the staff.
Implemented sustainability initiatives at the Sustainable Consumption Conference
Each conference participant received one reusable glass bottle, which replaced single-use plastic bottles for the distribution of water throughout the conference.
Every meal served at the conference was vegetarian, reducing the environmental impact of the conference’s catering by 44% compared to meat-based meals.
Participants were asked to sort their waste throughout the conference, using designated bins for paper, plastic, food, and general waste.
The conference was largely paperless. Programs and other general information were made available in ways that reduced the need for paper, such as printed posters and an app with, among other information, the timetable.
The lanyards for name tags were made from recycled polyester, and both name tags and lanyards were collected for reuse after the conference.
Food waste was minimized by asking participants to give notice in advance about which meals they were going to participate in, and any leftover food was brought to a nearby centre for homeless people.
All conference staff wore a sustainable and organic cotton t-shirt with key sustainability messages on the back.
Invitation to a learning journey
When hosting an event at CBS, you are in touch with many different stakeholders who have procedures on how to efficiently meet requests on catering, waste handling, or cleaning. This means that it must be a collaborative effort if you want to change the existing structures. Engagement and communication are key.
We should not get carried away by the belief that the easiest solutions to implement will necessarily be the most impactful or more environmentally significant than our starting point. There is a big difference between solutions that carry a high degree of reducing CO2-emissions (real impact), and solutions that have the purpose of creating awareness. Both aspects are highly important. However, we should be aware of when we spend resources on one or the other and communicate this clearly.
I want to invite you to think about how we can improve our ecological footprint when we host events at CBS and elsewhere. As you will soon learn, there is no such thing as a “sustainable event”. However, there are well-founded decisions and much to learn if we dare to ask the question:
How can we raise the bar for sustainable events?
Louise Thomsen is Project Manager for CBS PRME and the VELUX Chair in Corporate Sustainability at the Department of Management, Society and Communication, CBS. Louise is focused on implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals in an university context through student engagement. Follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Save the date: 29 August, 15 h, Dalgas Have, Copenhagen Business School.
Creating a whole conference to have a significantly reduced amount of waste, use of paper and plastics is a big challenge. But many people also wonder, what they can do as individuals to limit climate change, if there is anything at all. This issue is treated in another edition of the Sustainability Seminar Series at the department of Management, Society and Communication at CBS.
While the recent US ’opioid crisis’ has beenwidelyreported, a second, less recognized, crisis related to opioids has been taking place, and is still ongoing, more quietly in countries with less Western media visibility. Whereas the crisis in the US is arguably related to an over-subscription to opioid-based pain relief, such as OxyContin, the second crisis could rather be seen as a case of too tightly regulated access to opioids in health-care systems. This is at least the argument of a recent report commissioned by The Lancet which proclaims that the world is experiencing an under-management of pain where as many as 25 million people are suffering partly as a result of regulatory and cultural approaches to the use of opioids.
Severe lack of access
The report was the result of a three-year study on the integration and access of pain relief and palliative care in health systems. It opens with a succinct description of the problem: “Poor people in all parts of the world live and die with little or no palliative care or pain relief. Staring into this access abyss, one sees the depth of extreme suffering in the cruel face of poverty and inequity” (Knaul, Farmer & Krakauer et al, 2017: 1).
Those suffering from lack of access to adequate medication are predominantly found in low-income and middle-income countries, often with terminal illnesses, and includes approximately 2.5 million children dying with, what the report terms, ‘serious health-related suffering’ each year (Knaul, Farmer & Krakauer et al, 2017: 2). Of the almost 300 metric tons of morphine-equivalent opioids distributed annually, only 0.1 metric tons reach health systems in low-income countries. This is something the report’s authors condemn as: “a medical, public health, and moral failing and a travesty of justice” (Knaul, Farmer & Krakauer et al, 2017: 1).
Addiction and pain relief
But what are the reasons for this state of potentially unnecessary suffering? In contrast to many other debates on access to medication, the problem is in this case not predominantly related to questions of scarcity, costs, or tightly enforced intellectual property rights to drugs, but rather a mix of cultural and regulatory factors. There are (at least) two factors that explain the pattern: One is a lack of visibility due to fragmented patient advocacy and exclusion of pain alleviation from standard measures of health. Another key factor is that opioids do not only fall under the scope of medical regulation but are also controlled substances under international drug conventions (Ibid.).
As substances such as morphine are listed and regulated as narcotic substances by the UN, they become part of a machinery of international checks and balances on their flow, including import quotas and reporting requirements. The UN treaties are based on two imperatives, on the one hand the limitation of harmful and addictive substances, and on the other hand to secure access to medically vital analgesics. In recent decades, the war on a drugs-compatible first imperative of strict control has become increasingly dominant, making such medication harder to access (Knaul, Farmer & Krakauer et al, 2017: 8).
A second related issue suggested by the report is ‘opiophobia’, described as prejudice and misinformation concerning medical use of opioids. Whereas a balanced approach to opioid prescriptions is needed, a prevalent fear of non-medical use and its side-effects among health-care providers, regulators, and patients have led to an underestimation of needs and insufficient medical use in many countries (Ibid.).
What’s to be done
Even though this inequity in pain relief is indeed under-acknowledged, potential solutions should at least, in theory, not be gridlocked by economic interests. As morphine and morphine-like medication is cheap to produce and commonly used in Western medical systems, the problem is rather about framing and contesting stigmatization. While acknowledging the risks with a too laissez-faire approach, there is a need to recognize the value in a controlled medical use of opioids to avoid unnecessary suffering as well.
A way to do so, as the report highlights, would for instance be a broadening of the third Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on ensuring healthy lives and well-being for all. Currently, the battle against substance abuse is covered in the SDG target 3.5, a step forward however would be to include pain alleviation and access to pain relief as similarly essential objectives – for instance as part of SDG target 3.8 on universal health coverage. As a measure, this is of course not enough, but at the current stage, and given the documented ‘abyss’ of equity in pain treatment worldwide, simply diagnosing the issue as problematic per se would to some degree seem like progress.
 A member of a group of drugs to achieve analgesia, i.e. relief from pain. (editor’s note)
Knaul, F. M., Farmer, P. E., Krakauer, E. L., et al. (2017). Alleviating the access abyss in palliative care and pain relief––an imperative of universal health coverage: The Lancet Commission report. Lancet. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32513-8
Robin Porsfelt is a PhD fellow at the Department of Management, Society and Communication. He is part of a PhD cohort on time and societal challenges, with particular research interests in the sociology of valuation and global governance
In academia -especially for young researchers- there seems to be only one way to the top: publish frequently and in well-regarded journals. This pressure however may sometimes come at the expense of academic quality. As with other things, good research sometimes just needs time. Unfortunately, infrequent publishing might be followed by less recognition, and funding might be more difficult to obtain in the short-term. Eventually, one might lose the opportunity to move up the career ladder. In a nutshell: Publish or perish.
The pressure of frequent publishing
My experience is that the phrase seems to ignite a range of emotions from rage to acceptance among academics. This can be a conversation starter or something that inevitably comes up in conversation. The dilemma is also at the epicenter of different symposia, conferences and other scholarly debates. The woes of the publish or perish dilemma are manifold. To name a few, ‘salami slicing’ e.g. taking one idea or dataset and reusing it in various papers, disillusionment with the publishing process and lack of creativity. Yet, few researchers investigate the publish or perish dilemma and why it endures (de Rond & Miller, 2005). In essence, is it the publish or perish dilemma that is the problem, or are we?
Below, I briefly introduce the birth of ‘the publish or perish’ dilemma and then delineate a few points on what I call the short-term pleasure dilemma of the publish or perish dilemma. I conclude with a few questions to consider what a ‘publish or perish’ free world would look like. I suggest that paradoxically, we might enjoy the publish or perish dilemma because it provides short-term gratification in a long-term context. In this age of publish or perish, I should note that I am by no means a gratification theory scholar and raise these questions based on my own personal experiences in academia for further research purposes.
To publish or to perish
The idea behind the publish or perish dilemma is often traced back to two studies by the Carnegie and Ford Foundations in the mid-1950’s which looked at the state of business education in the US. The findings of the studies deplored the lack of intellectual relevance and dynamism, analytical prowess and lack of high quality journals in organization sciences (de Rond & Miller, 2005, citing Gordon & Howell, 1959, pp. 355, 379). As a result, research which had been on the backburner compared to teaching endeavors became the hallmark, or at least of equal significance, to teaching in academic organizations (ibid). The idea also traveled to Europe with similar studies conducted in the UK and France in the 1960s and 70s and has since spread like wildfire globally. In essence, with the prevailing publish or perish idea, there has been a focus on publishing in top-tiered peer reviewed journals, citation impact factors and tenure rewarded as a result of publications. This has led to the criticism that scientific quality e.g. innovation and intellectual inquiry has come at the expense of publishing expeditiously to move up the career ladder. One example of these costs is the phenomena of “rogue publishers” or journals which offer to publish (often younger scholars) at a fee thereby abusing the peer-review system.
Taking this into consideration, I suggest some areas that require further research (to do at another time due to the publish or perish dilemmaJ) which suggest that the publish or perish system endures because it provides short-term gratification in a long-term academic game.
While it has been argued that publishing frequently comes at the expense of originality and innovation, academics also cite deadlines such as paper calls and conferences and the review process itself as means to work through ideas and enable them to come to fruition. This suggests that there may be some short-term gratification that results from publishing often as opposed to waiting years for a high-quality idea to emerge and be published. On the contrary, if the idea might not amount to something publishable, the review process may be a way to root it out. Clearly, the inverse is also true e.g. that great ideas and theories are obviously not developed in a day but short-term gratification might be attained from delivering frequent outputs.
Publishing in top-tiered peer reviewed journals
Publishing in top-tier peer-reviewed journals has been a source of great contention as many argue that the process forces publications into certain conversations and might prize certain discourses, that the metrics which rank journals are problematic and that the peer-review process itself is rife with transparency, bias and time allocation issues. Yet, publishing in top-tiered journals also provides scholars with a sense of pride, inclusion into an academic conversation and sense of accomplishment. Again, there seems to be a sense of short-term gratification related to publishing in top-tiered peer reviewed journals: scholars develop a certain prestige, are able to network and communicate with others in the community and use a yardstick to measure their progress. Given that senior scholars do not need to prove themselves to the same extent that junior scholars do, it can be argued that gratification might be more of a short-term benefit.
Moving up the career ladder
Publishing frequently and in top-tiered peer reviewed journals is the ticket to advancing in academia. But once you move to the top, there is likely less gratification received from publishing in top-tiered journals and publishing frequently. Therefore, it is likely more gratifying in the short-term to publish frequently and in top-tiered journals because they can lead to career advancement.
The short-term publish or perish pleasure dilemma or an alternative?
Taking these factors into consideration, the question remains as to whether this short-term gratification is at the expense of the long-term. This raises the question as to what the alternative would look like. Presumably, it would involve publishing less frequently, in journals of the author’s choice and using other metrics for evaluation. What do you think? Is this what the new generation of academics should strive for or should we continue to play the game and enjoy the short-term gratification / pleasure dilemma like eating a Snickers bar?
Luisa Murphy is a PhD Fellow at Copenhagen Business School and supported by the VELUX Endowed Chair in Corporate Sustainability. Her research examines governance for anti-corruption. She brings a human rights and business background from the University of Oxford and legal experience from the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice.
Addressing climate change requires an urgent implementation of far-reaching solutions. Policy-makers and natural scientists have mainly offered supply-side solutions to solving the climate problem, such as widespread adoption of new or innovative technologies. While of critical importance, strictly prioritising supply-side solutions is unlikely to deliver the necessary greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions within the desired time frame. An often-overlooked demand-side solution is behaviour change, which can offer both immediate and long-term reductions in GHG emissions.
There is an urgent need for rapid decarbonisation to reduce the magnitude of climate change. The Paris Agreement reflected this urgency in its formulation of ambitious goals to keep the global temperature increase below 2°C and preferably 1.5°C. Since the Paris Agreement, researchers—often affiliated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—have with accelerated frequency been building scenarios for potential pathways to reach the temperature goals. These far-reaching—and arguably radical—pathways involve urgent transitions to renewable energy sources and the majority assumes the use of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies, such as afforestation or bio energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Neither of the pathway scenarios take behavioral changes into account despite the fact that studies have shown its potential to reduce GHG emissions. For example, Thomas Dietz and colleagues (2009) found that a national implementation of behavioural changes in the United States could reduce U.S. households’ direct emissions by 20% within 10 years (representing 123 million tons of CO2). Although not sufficient single-handedly, behaviour change can help speed up the decarbonisation of societies.
Three dimensions of behaviour change
To identify the potential of behavioural changes to reduce GHG emissions, it is critical to consider three dimensions:
the technical potential (TP) of a behaviour, or the emissions reduction achieved if an individual or a target population collectively adopted the behaviour;
behavioural plasticity (BP), or the proportion of the technical potential achievable through the most effective behavioural interventions; and
feasibility of initiatives (IF) to induce change, which refers to the likelihood that the most effective interventions are achievable within a target population.
Focusing exclusively on either of the three dimensions will result in skewed analyses from which only imperfect interventions can be developed. For example, substituting a GHG-intensive behaviour with a less GHG-intensive alternative (e.g., flying to Bermuda on vacation versus vacationing in one’s own country) will promise a high TP but the extent to which people are willing to make such a behavioural substitution may be less promising (BP) and so might the feasibility of achieving the behavioural change across a large population (IF). Conversely, a behaviour could be easy to change (e.g., getting people to shut off lights in unoccupied rooms) and feasibly be implemented in a large population, yet hold a very low TP and therefore even in the aggregate fail to reduce emissions by much.
Identifying the most promising target behaviours
The task of researchers (across disciplines) in collaboration with policy-makers and companies is to identify the behaviours with the highest potential to reduce GHG emissions while considering all three dimensions in cohesion. Making such calculations is no easy task—as the dimensions may vary substantially between and within countries—but neither is adopting innovative technologies at a massive scale. However, focusing on both supply- and demand-side solutions will heighten the likelihood of achieving the Paris goals.
 Dietz et al., 2009; Vandenbergh & Gilligan, 2017.
Dietz, T., Gardner, G. T., Gilligan, J., Stern, P. C., & Vandenbergh, M. P. (2009). Household actions can provide a behavioral wedge to rapidly reduce US carbon emissions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(44), 18452-18456.
Rogelj, J., Popp, A., Calvin, K. V., Luderer, G., Emmerling, J., Gernaat, D., … & Krey, V. (2018). Scenarios towards limiting global mean temperature increase below 1.5° C. Nature Climate Change, 8(4), 325.
Vandenbergh, M. P., & Gilligan, J. M. (2017). Beyond Politics. Cambridge University Press.
Kristian Steensen Nielsen is a PhD Fellow in environmental behaviour change at Copenhagen Business School. His research interests are self-control, behaviour change, and environmentally significant behaviour.