Institute of Political Science

Research projects

Municipal services: co-determined, social, climate-neutral?

Conditions for success in socio-ecological transformation

The research project "Municipal services: co-determined, social, climate-neutral?" is funded by the Hans Böckler Foundation and is located at the F.A.T.K and at the Institute of Political Science at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen.

Municipalities and municipal companies providing services of general interest are considered to play an important role in the socio-ecological transformation. In this context, the research team investigates the handling of climate protection requirements in the fields of energy, waste disposal and public transport as well as the potential of municipalities as "key actors" in the mitigation of climate change and asks what role employees and co-determination play in this context.

1. Context

Climate change mitigation and adaptation are becoming increasingly important also in municipalities and municipal enterprises. They are responsible for ensuring the provision of existential services and goods for the population, even under the conditions of climate change, for guaranteeing equal living conditions and opportunities for participation, but also for solving self-inflicted ecological problems and realizing potential savings.

In the municipalities, there are various fields of action to pursue climate and sustainability goals. Presumably, it will be a decisive factor whether and how climate policy, economic interests and the interests of employees can be coordinated in such a way that climate measures do not fail due to resistance from employees who also have legitimate social concerns. Works councils and staff councils, employee representatives on supervisory boards and the trade unions have an important task here.

2. Research Question

The project aims to investigate, from an actor-centered perspective, firstly, what demands municipal utility companies in the sectors energy, waste disposal and public transport are confronted with in terms of climate and environmental protection, what measures are taken and what factors tend to promote or hinder their implementation. Second, we will look into the role of employees in the transformation process. The focus will be on the content and forms of company negotiation and participation processes and, if applicable, on the conflicts associated with them. The conditions under which it is possible to reconcile employee interests and initiatives for ecological transformation will be investigated. Finally, we will ask for the potential of municipalities and their infrastructure companies as key actors in the socio-ecological transformation.

3. Research Methods

Empirically, the project is based on a total of 90 interviews and group discussions. In addition to 10 explorative interviews with external experts, 66 interviews with company and staff representatives and 12-14 group discussions with employees will be conducted in the municipalities and the infrastructure companies. Supplemented by document analyses, 12-15 company case studies, including 6 intensive case studies, will be conducted on this basis. We rely mainly on the analytical heuristics of actor-centered institutionalism, but extend them with innovation and recognition theory as well as network and discourse theory considerations. Beyond the scientific analysis, it will be examined under which conditions the socio-ecological transformation can be successfully shaped in municipal enterprises and whether best practice examples can be identified.

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