Utility companies play a dilemmatic role in the ongoing contestation of environmental responsibility. While, on the one hand, they are an important enabler for industrial and economic development and providers of national energy security, their operations are also recognized as utterly dangerous for the climate and life on Earth (Jewell, Cherp, & Riahi, 2014; Yao & Chang, 2014). Environmental groups and radical green activists have in particular attacked utility companies (e.g. see Doyle & Lockhart, 2012), while policymakers and politicians have had more balanced views, given their interest in continued growth, national economic welfare (Löschel, Moslener, & Rübbelke, 2010) and public concerns (Demski, Poortinga, & Pidgeon, 2014).
In contrast to studies of external stakeholders’ resistance to utility companies, this paper explores the potential of internal – that is, employees’ – dissent, contestation and activism within Vattenfall Wind Development Business Unit. Vattenfall was founded in 1909 by the Swedish state and is still 100% state-owned, formed as a limited company in 1992. Their net sales amounted to GBP 17,1684 billion in 2013, employing around 32,000 employees, but are currently undergoing a major reorganization due to lack of resources in the wake of the purchase of the Dutch company Nuon.
Activists often attack Vattenfall to highlight the company’s reliance on carbon intensive coal-fired power plants in Germany (Svenska Dagbladet, 2014). Greenpeace has climbed the walls of various Vattenfall buildings and dumped coal outside the entrance of the Swedish government headquarters (Greenpeace, 2009). In comparison, we know very little about the potential of green activism within Vattenfall. The prevalent academic assumption is that true ‘activism’ is something that takes place within the realms of civil society, attacking companies from the outside, and not within businesses (Murphy, 1996). Stern et al. (1999:82), for instance, define activists as ‘those who are committed to public actions intended to influence the behaviour of the policy system and of the broader population’. However, citizen activism is continuously re-organized and the ‘political inventiveness’ to meet traditional governmental problems is vast (Rose, 2007:148). Besides, by focussing on ecological citizenship today, we soon discover that a distinction between ‘internal’ and ‘external’ activism is difficult to make, as employees are citizens both at work and at home (Rose, 1999:83), especially in Nordic liberal democracies. Activist arguments, practices and activists themselves, are thus possible to empirically trace within businesses.
Activism, Climate Change, Epistemic Struggles, Employees, Wind Power, Critical Management