SS02. Bottom-up transformation of businesses for postgrowth

The discourse on degrowth has progressively matured evolving into a critical lens towards the conventional growth paradigm that dominates economic and business landscapes. Thus far, debates on the role of businesses in degrowth have revolved around the identification of business characteristics which would be aligned with degrowth both in general as well as in specific areas such as innovation, marketing, value creation, relation-with-profit. But businesses are not monolithic structures, and multiple logics, values and motivations coexist. This plurality does not imply that different logics are equal in terms of influence and power to shape business practices. In fact, the opposite is true and degrowth-oriented logics tend to be supressed in the context of businesses. The focus of this special session is to explore the internal dynamics, conflicts, resistances, and confrontations that manifest within business organisations as they seek to contribute to a post-growth transition

  • Expected proposals format: conventional panel contributions.
  • Keywords: Degrowth Theories of the firm, Business and Degrowth, organization democracy
  • Related track(s): 12. Transformative businesses and organizations in a postgrowth context
  • Organizers: Pansera, Mario (Univesity of Vigo, Spain); Lloveras, Javier (Univesity of Vigo, Spain); Witjes, Sjors (Radboud University, The Netherlands)

Full description

It is a widely held belief that, to foster the emergence of a degrowth or post-growth society, various facets of the economy must undergo transformation, reduction, or even phase out entirely. This paradigm shift can ideally be accomplished through a top-down approach, wherein the macroeconomic system orchestrates the transition of specific economic sectors, as this is deemed essential in achieving the ultimate goal of degrowth. However, it is worth noting that scant attention has been directed towards examining the bottom-up initiatives emerging from businesses, whether by design or happenstance, that actively encourage transformative changes towards a post-growth society. With the exception of notable instances such as the Lucas Plan in the United Kingdom during the 1970s, limited scholarly focus has been placed on understanding how individuals within conventional business settings, especially those at the shop floor level, are engaged in a battle for social control over production processes. This engagement, interestingly, aligns with the visions of a post-growth society, as detailed in Pansera and Fressoli's 2021 work. 

The literature on degrowth is often populated by grassroots and small-scale initiatives, and this session aims to delve into how the very employees, particularly those on the shop floor, can serve as catalysts for organizational change that adheres to post-growth principles. Simultaneously, we intend to explore the intricacies of the internal dynamics, conflicts, resistances, and confrontations that manifest within businesses and possess the potential to contribute significantly to a post-growth transition. This duality of focus, both on the transformative power of individuals within organizations and the challenges they face in effecting change, underscores the complex and multifaceted nature of the journey towards a post-growth future. In particular, we look for cases that can provide insight into these questions: 

  • What's the role of shopfloor initiatives in promoting paradigms alternative to growth? How do shopfloor initiatives transform business from inside? And how do workers resist changes in transformation? 
  • How do organization features (e. g. structure, culture, ownership etc.) enable or disable bottom-up transformation? 
  • How business resist transformation?   
  • How can firm strategy be transformed by employees engaged in postgrowth?  
  • To what extend intentionality, consciousness, ideology are necessary to enable bottom-up transformation?   

This open special session will accept a maximum of 4 papers attempting, on one hand, to provide a refined conceptualization and critique of growth in the specific context of business. On the other, the session will explore the role of employees, especially shopfloor initiatives, to trigger transformative changes towards degrowth.


  • Edwards, M. G. (2021). The growth paradox, sustainable development, and business strategy. Business Strategy and the Environment, 30(7), 3079-3094. 
  • Hankammer, S., Kleer, R., Mühl, L., & Euler, J. (2021). Principles for organizations striving for sustainable degrowth: Framework development and application to four B Corps. Journal of Cleaner Production, 300,126818. 
  • Hinton, J. (2021). Five key dimensions of post-growth business: Putting the pieces together. Futures, 131,102761. 
  • Hinton, J., & Maclurcan, D. (2017). A not-for-profit world beyond capitalism and economic growth?. ephemera: theory & politics in organization, 17(1). 
  • Khmara, Y., & Kronenberg, J. (2018). Degrowth in business: An oxymoron or a viable business model for sustainability?. Journal of Cleaner Production, 177,721-731. 
  • Lloveras, J., Marshall, A. P., Vandeventer, J. S., & Pansera, M. (2022). Sustainability marketing beyond sustainable development: towards a degrowth agenda. Journal of Marketing Management, 38(17-18), 2055-2077. 
  • Pansera, M., & Fressoli, M. (2021). Innovation without growth: Frameworks for understanding technological change in a post-growth era. Organization, 28(3), 380-404