Katharina Dittrich

Assistant Professor in Organisation Studies

Warwick Business School, University of Warwick


Climate Risk in Financial Markets: An Ethnographic Study of a Large-scale Phenomena


For a long-time, climate change was regarded as a non-financial problem. Only in the area of sustainable finance, a nice market, investors took into account environmental and climate-related concerns. Things started to change when a London-based think tank developed the carbon bubble theory and leading financial figures, including Stieglitz and the governor of the Bank of England, posited climate risk as a key concern for financial markets. Over the last few years, a remarkable number of initiatives related to climate risks have mushroomed in different locales, including financial regulators and supervisory bodies, shareholders, climate activists, financial data providers, analysts and academics. Each of these initiatives addresses climate risk in a different way, yet taken together they have set in motion a larger change process that may substantially transform financial practices and support the transition to a climate-friendly economy. Climate risk has become a “matter of concern” (Latour, 2004) for a wide array of actors in financial markets.

Employing ethnographic and actor-network sensitivities, I trace the ongoing activities and debates surrounding climate risk across multiple sites, organizations and actors. I am particularly interested in how the connectedness of practices in larger bundles and constellations affects and is affected by efforts to deal with climate risk. By tracing how actors as part of their ongoing activities relate to other practices and calibrate their actions on climate risk in relation to what goes in other sites of activities, I aim to uncover the texture of financial practices and how it enables or constrains incorporating climate risk concerns in financial markets. This approach has the potential to contribute to a better understanding of grand challenges (Ferraro, Etzion, & Gehman, 2015) and large-scale phenomena (Nicolini, 2017) from a practice-based perspective. As this is an ongoing research project, in my talk I will reflect on the conceptual and methodological challenges encountered in the research process and some initial, emerging findings.