Myths and Realities of Business Environmentalism
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Myths and Realities of Business Environmentalism

Good Works, Good Business or Greenwash?

Kurt A. Strasser

Many businesses profess to be voluntarily taking steps to protect the environment, and going beyond compliance with environmental regulations to do so. Kurt Strasser evaluates these claims in this timely and cutting-edge inquiry.
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Chapter 4: ‘New Governance’ Theory and Business Environmentalism

Kurt A. Strasser


Traditional environmental protection policy thinking starts with the idea that we must have strict legal controls over behavior that harms the environment – laws, regulations and rules. The conventional justification is straightforward. People and organizations engage in harmful behavior because it is profitable or convenient to do so; public controls are needed to stop them, or at least limit and control them. This approach is the core of most contemporary environmental protection policy. However, regulations may not be the most effective way to change behavior, or the cheapest, in all situations, and we have added a group of policies designed to provide economic incentives to discourage harmful conduct.1 In broadest form, these two options – legal rules and the occasional use of economic incentives – have been the extent of most of our conventional conceptual thinking about environmental protection. For the most part, voluntary business environmentalism exists on the fringe of environmental protection policy, playing only a minor role. Yet, another policy model has emerged in the academy, offering itself as a so-called third way alternative to regulation and economic incentives. For over a decade, a group of creative scholars have been thinking and writing about implementing policy with more participatory and collaborative approaches involving government, business, and NGOs and other citizen groups in an interactive dynamic process. Although the theories are diverse, sometimes conflicting, and often incomplete, they do offer an intriguing alternative way of thinking about making and enforcing policy. While these theories are applied to a broad array of policy...

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