Scaling as an Organizational Method: Ethnographic Explorations of Two Danish Sustainability Organizations

AuthorIrina Papazu,Mette Nelund
Date01 April 2018
Publication Date01 April 2018
British Journal of Management, Vol. 29, 252–265 (2018)
DOI: 10.1111/1467-8551.12288
Scaling as an Organizational Method:
Ethnographic Explorations of Two Danish
Sustainability Organizations
Irina Papazu and Mette Nelund
Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy,Copenhagen Business School, Porcelænshaven 18B, 2000
Frederiksberg, Denmark
Corresponding author email:
Organization studies have shown limited interest in the part that scaling playsin organi-
zational responses to climate change and sustainability.Moreover, whilescales are viewed
as central to the diagnosis of the organizational challenges posed by climate change and
sustainability,the role of scaling in meeting these challenges has not yet been recognized.
By analysing two ethnographic case studies, conducted at Samsø Energy Academy and
Farendløse Cider Works, respectively, the authors identify scaling as a core activity of
the sustainability organization. The two organizations studied each situate their opera-
tions at the heart of the climate change problematic – one in organic farming, the other
in renewable energy – and, employingwhat the authors term ‘the method of scaling’, they
impose order on the worldin which they operate. The method of scaling helps the organiza-
tions relate their actions to the ambiguous concepts of sustainability and climate change.
The authors find that the two organizations’ scaling activities occur in three modes: re-
jection, innovation and conscious adoption of core concepts such as sustainability and
climate change. These modes of scaling help organizations turn something as immense as
the climate into a small and manageable problem, thus making abstract concepts part of
concrete, organizational practice.
In this paper, we explore the intricate relations
between sustainability and scale by analysing
organizational practice in two Danish organi-
zations operating in the field of environmental
sustainability. Each of the cases, Samsø Energy
Academy and Farendløse Cider Works, situates
its operations at the very heart of the global
climate challenge – one in non-certified organic
farming, the other in renewable energy (RE).
Intimately tied to natural resources and climate
change, the Danish agricultural and energysectors
represent sites of action where the dilemmas and
possibilities of working in sustainability can be
expected to crystallize. As we understand scale,
This research was supported by the VELUXFoundation.
it is a broad term signifying either level (‘Where
should action take place?’) or magnitude (‘What
is the extent of the problem?’) (Marston, Jones
and Woodward, 2005; Moore, 2008). From our
constructivist position, we see scales as ‘not given,
but contingent, contested social constructs that
are continually being made and remade’ (Moore,
2008, p. 208). From this vantage point, we analyse
the ‘scalar dimensions of practices, rather than
practices occurring at dierent scales’ (Moore,
2008, p. 217), treating the matter of scale not as
a starting point but as ‘an open question to be
addressed empirically’ (Moore, 2008, p. 218).
Organizations employ scaling as a means of
imposing some order on the world in which they
operate; indeed, scaling oers a way of shaping
that world as well as of creating situated versions
of sustainability fit for the specific organization
(see also Johnsen, Olaison and Sørensen, 2017).
C2018 British Academy of Management. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4
2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA, 02148, USA.

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