Climate Change, Discourse & Organizations

Malene Lise Hellerup Thøgersen & Cecilie Feo Feline Toft

Student thesis: Master thesis


The objective of this master’s thesis is to examine the social dimensions of the climate discourse in Danish media and the processes through which it impacts the context of organisations and thereby the conditions for creating successful strategic communication. Using the Danish energy company Ørsted as a case, the thesis seeks to achieve this objective through the following research question: to what extent does the climate debate affect the context in which Ørsted generates its profit, and how does it affect Ørsted’s communicative strategy and identity formation? Through the application of critical discourse analysis inspired by Norman Fairclough and the adoption of sociological theories, the thesis qualitatively identifies the different discursive elements and textually constructed perceptions of reality that form and are formed by the climate debate, and discusses how these both shape and are shaped by social practices. Thus, it is concluded that the mediated experience of climate change significantly impacts the conditions for conducting business. A communication analysis of Ørsted’s annual reports from 2003-2019 and their current vision and values is then employed, which facilitates the interpretation that Ørsted’s communicative strategy and identity in large part draws on the same elements as the public climate discourse, thus reflecting a significant overlap between these. Finally, the processes through which the climate debate changes the conditions for successful strategic communication is discussed theoretically, drawing on Suchman (1995), Beck (1997) and DiMaggio & Powell (1983), among others. The conclusions of that discussion are many, but most significantly that societal climate-related expectations toward organisations are shaped in part through the way in which risk is defined and articulated, and in part through the norms, values and definitions that are produced in reference to it. A significant observation in relation to this is that since the context for an organisation’s generation of profit is changeable in large part due to the unstable effects of different public discourses, it becomes imperative for companies to address and continually monitor their context and the discourses that shape it. In relation to the climate debate, which may at first seem stable considering the relative interrelatedness of the different discourses that shape it, this becomes especially pertinent as companies may be tempted to rely on a single impression of the state of the climate debate, and thus may miss fluctuations and subtle hegemonic struggles as they evolve and transform the context through discourse.

EducationsMSc in Business Administration and Organizational Communication, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages149
SupervisorsAnders Bordum