University of Innsbruck

Name: Assoz. Prof. Dr. Birthe Soppe

Department and team: Institute for Organisation and Learning, Organisation Studies Team

At the Faculty since: 2018

Organizational responses to climate change/ Organisations and sustainability: This overarching theme has been driving my research activities for a long time. I am interested in a whole range of organisations and organisational forms, from established, large industrial companies to smaller start-ups to social movement organisations. In particular, I research the role of these organisations in the process of change in established sectors and industries, as well as in the emergence of new sustainable markets, so-called "moral markets".

Organisations and major social challenges, such as crises, fundamental technological change, and difficult local conditions: How do different forms of organisation deal with social challenges?

Social acceptance, opinion formation and sustainability transitions: In addition to organisational dynamics, I am also researching overarching processes of change such as the transformation of discursive opinion-forms in relation to the legitimisation of new practices, products, or alternative technological solutions, which in turn represent important foundations for the emergence of new moral markets and are an essential building block for a sustainable transformation of the economy and society.

Researchers who also deal with the role of organisations and sustainability.

A central task of a research centre that I co-lead is to derive very specific recommendations for action for decision-makers in established organisations and politics. In terms of change and sustainability, these are of course important target groups.

Another important target group for me are my students: especially the younger generation has the opportunity to consistently push the topic of organisations and sustainability. More knowledge hopefully leads to better decisions!

1/ How established companies in the energy sector deal with the issue of sustainability: Established, large industrial companies tend not to find fundamental change easy and therefore often pursue a strategy of avoiding change. However, many companies can no longer afford such a strategy, especially those whose core business is based on fossil fuels. Why? Societal pressure and awareness for sustainability and sustainable change has increased significantly, especially in recent years. This is also felt by the core players of formerly highly regarded sectors and industries such as the energy and automotive industries. In this project, we explore in particular the ambivalent approach of large oil companies in Europe to the issue of sustainability.

2/ On the topic of organisations and major social challenges, we explore, for example, how entrepreneurs in the field of ethical fashion navigate the covid crisis and also see this crisis as a positive driver for their alternative and strongly sustainability-oriented organisational models.

3/ Discursive changes in electromobility: In this project, we explore the different opinions on the topic of electromobility - in comparison between different countries. Our results show very clearly how strongly different the opinions on the topic of electromobility are and how these influence the different diffusion rates of electric vehicles.

In addition to my dissertation on the topic of organisations, institutions and renewable energies, my post-doctoral period was particularly influential. I was able to spend this period at Stanford University. I learned an incredible amount from my mentor there, Walter Powell: the sensitive and curious handling of empirical data, the complexity of social, organisational and economic interactions, that "good" research takes time, and also how much you can learn from your students in the classroom if you create an atmosphere of interaction.

At the moment I am heavily involved in a research centre on the topic of sustainability transitions, which I helped to establish as Vice-Director and Principal Investigator and which I can strongly contribute to. The research centre is called INTRANSIT and consists of an international network of colleagues from Norway and the Netherlands, with further cooperation partners in Switzerland and Sweden, among others.

I am also involved in the development and consolidation of a network on the topic of moral markets and organisations. This network includes cooperation partners from the Netherlands, Germany, the USA and Switzerland, among others. As part of this network, we organise exciting workshops and lectures at academic conferences. We are also planning a book project, which I am very much looking forward to.

In 2012, I successfully completed my dissertation on the role of entrepreneurs and institutions in the emergence of renewable energy markets. Instead of a classic habilitation, I then chose the "American" path, i.e. via postdoc to assistant and later associate professor.

What makes teaching particularly exciting for me is being able to contribute and discuss my research interests and insights. I also notice how much the topic of sustainability is "in demand". Not so many years ago, I still had to argue in the classroom why the topic is important - for prospective business students and also for profit-oriented companies. Nowadays, such justification is no longer necessary. Instead, I now offer specially designed elective modules on sustainability. As part of these courses, students also work on their own sustainability projects - this is how I want to make research and the process of knowledge generation accessible(er) during their studies.

It's simply a great job 😉 Exciting all around, many different areas of responsibility and, of course, self-determined work on topics that interest you personally as well as professionally. Other career paths often don't offer such a symbiosis.

And there's always the exchange with new, up-and-coming you're always somewhat in tune with the times. In addition, there is an extremely pleasant and constructive atmosphere among the faculty colleagues, which I appreciate very much.

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