Thesis defence coming up: Axel Welinder

Published: 2023-01-26

After completing the doctoral education PhD student Axel Welinder will defend his thesis 16 February. Get a quick glimpse of his thesis, experiences and near future.

Hi, Axel! You are about to defend your thesis Legitimizing susta¡nability talk in retail talk – The case of IKEAs sustainability journey. In short, what is your thesis about?

“Very generally, I am interested in understanding how people come to talk about sustainability, and how they then talk about it. This is mainly interesting for two reasons. To begin with, and although talking about sustainable development is not enough to solve our predicament of currently unsustainable development, it will never be solved unless we start talking about it. Hence the importance of understanding how we come to talk about sustainability in the first place. Secondly, when we do talk the “sustainability talk”, what kind of “sustainability walk” is it suggesting? It is important to understand how we make sustainability meaningful in particular ways to critically reflect upon how we supposedly ought to pursue more sustainable development.

More particularly, I explore the communicative aspects of transitioning towards more sustainable development in the context of retailing. Large retail organizations play an important role in bringing about more sustainable development, as well as in sustaining unsustainable development, primarily through their position between production and consumption in many different value chains. This position permits them to exercise a great deal of communicative power in shaping how different actors choose to talk about, and hence engage with, the transition toward more sustainable ways of being. It is therefore crucial to understand and critically reflect on how these organizations talk about sustainability as they make it into a legitimate feature of what they do.

By studying the empirical case of IKEA’s sustainability journey (1992- 2017), using qualitative methods such as interviews and document studies, my thesis shows how sustainability talk (and the perspectives on reality it enables) over time is made into a legitimate feature of retail talk. Including potential challenges in, and implications of, undertaking such journeys. Something I argue is a far more difficult, complex and problematic endeavor for retailers to undertake than most previous research on the topic would have us believe. The purpose of my thesis is to reveal what some of these previously overlooked complexities and problematic aspects might be. My approach is to complement and combine previous research on more sustainable retailing and CSR talk theorizing by providing a more nuanced understanding of the kind of work that goes into making retailing more sustainable, and for sustainability talk to occur throughout an organization over time.“

In three words, how would you describe your years as a PhD student at LUSEM?

Enlightening – it might sound a bit pretentious to use this word, but it was actually the first that came to mind. It is an amazing privilege to be a PhD-student at LUSEM since you get so much freedom to pursue your own intellectual interests. All while being in an environment that encourages critical thinking and inspires you to learn all kinds of theoretical perspectives for making sense of the reality in which we find ourselves.

Challenging - Intellectual freedom is nice and all, but it is not without its challenges. I remember my first day at work as a PhD-student, sitting at my desk in my new office and thinking “what am I supposed to do? What’s my job? What am I getting paid for?”. There is no clear work description, and you have to work it all out by yourself (with some help from colleagues and peers, of course). Doing so can be very frustrating and challenging at times, but once you start figuring things out and finding your own professional persona in the world of academia, overcoming such challenges is by all means also rewarding.

Rewarding - It is a logical conclusion that the two other words lead to personal rewards and development. It is rewarding to feel more enlightened and better equipped to see the world from different theoretical vantage points. It is rewarding to face new challenges, overcoming them, and learning more about yourself in the process.“

What are you up to now?

“Now I work at Kristianstad University with mainly teaching, but also new research projects. I continue to focus on retail and how people talk about sustainability, but also on how we talk organizations into existence in intriguing ways. Talk, talk, talk. Something I love to both do and explore. Perfect for a continued career in academic teaching and research!“

Thank you, Axel! Wishing you all the best!

Axel's "Spikning"

Axel traditionally nailed his thesis during the “Spikning ceremony“ 20 January in the Blue Hall in EC3 at LUSEM. Photo: Peter Kjällkvist

More about Axel

Axel is a PhD student at Department of Business Administration.

About Axel's defence

Axel in Lund University research portal

More about Axel