As a German citizen with a background in business I have been inspired to research how Norway’s financial elite takes part in the green transition: firstly, by a correlation that is sometimes made in the literature, between green capitalism and the entrepreneurial elites (Prudham 2009, Rogers 2010) and, secondly, by the notion that an important narrative strain in the Scandinavian cultural history points to a “Pragmatist’s Progress” where the Norwegian system of values arguably has been based on an “ecohumanist” code of action rather than a romantically, idealist one (Witoszek 1997: 222).The Norwegian “ecohumanist tradition” (Witoszek 1998: 41ff) and Norway’s international fame for its “wisdom of the open air”, made me want to study the ways, in which the Norwegian financial elite interprets their responsibilities in the light of this tradition.
Regarding the political and public awareness about climate change and conservation I experienced Norway as enlightened, while I also witnessed that its business practices are based on very utilitarian terms. Norway’s egalitarian political context, its green agenda and role as innovator of sustainable development made me curious to know whether Norway might in fact present favorable conditions to generate green capitalists. In this context, I became interested in the financial elite’s ordering of the world, their Weltanschauung, with respect to nature and the ongoing ecological crisis, as well as their visions for a green transition – not least in relation to their businesses and the cultural context.The research is qualitative and empirical, based on semi-structured interviews, a questionnaire and textual data. It uses a descriptive narrative / hermeneutic approach. The latter is a tribute to the significance of stories in our way of shaping the world, in general, and to my informant’s stories, in particular. My informants belong to the richest individuals in Norway; two of them are among the richest ten Norwegians. All of my ten key informants were “old capitalists” who had inherited their money. The objectives then were twofold: firstly, to find out how and why the most prosperous business people in Norway take part in the green and, secondly, how they view nature and in which way the two relate to the broader cultural and narrative context.