Special Issue "Environmental Sustainability and the Built Environment"
A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2009)
Prof. Dr. Bart A.G. Bossink
VU University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Department of Information, Logistics and Innovation, De Boelelaan 1105, Room 5A-22, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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Interests: environmentally sustainable innovation; sustainable construction; environmental design; environmental policy
Four management levels are distinguished at which the environmental sustainability of the built environment can be influenced. These are: environmental cooperation routines, environmental technology policies, environmental regulations and environmental incentives.
Environmental Cooperation Routines
Cooperation between governmental, institutional, scientific and commercial organizations can facilitate the development of an environmentally sustainable built environment in both emerging clusters of new organizations and in existing networks of established organizations. The first level at which environmentally sustainability for the built environment can be performed is the level of environmental cooperation routines between clusters of innovative organizations. The transition of industries towards sustainability is dependent upon networks of cooperating firms and institutions, and the coordination of their assets to transform traditional processes into ecologically friendly ones. Such firms rely upon daily dialogue and frequent exchange of environmental services and knowledge. The needed intensive environmental communication, environmental service provision, and environmental knowledge exchange typically takes place in specialized niches, apart from settings in which mainstream and less sustainable organizations are dominant. There is a symbiotic relationship between environmentally innovative firms, for instance in cases in which residual products of one firm can be used as raw material in another. But besides this, it is also found that mainstream organizations became more environmentally oriented in cooperation with others. Although traditionally operating industries are often resistant to greening initiatives, they are willing to change when their counterparts offer robust technologies that are capable of performing in accordance with new environmental standards.
Environmental Technology Policies
An environmentally sustainable built environment can be stimulated by a nationwide environmental technology policy in which public and private organizations cooperatively develop and execute environmental action plans. A second level at which the management of environmentally sustainability for the built environment can take place is the level of environmental technology policies that create the infrastructure in which innovative activity can emerge and be strengthened. A national environmental technology policy can play an important role in directing national industries towards environmental sustainability. A nation’s government and institutions have to develop a national innovation-policy, which induces research, invention, development and adoption of new technologies by governmental, institutional, scientific and commercial organizations. An analysis of Finnish national technology policies for example showed how environmental issues become part of a national technology policy. The Finnish integration of environmental goals in a national policy, in combination with an action and assessment program in which institutional and commercial organizations cooperated, produced considerable environmental results. In addition, the friction between sustainability as a common interest that is served by governmental, institutional and scientific organizations, and profitability as an individual interest, which is one of the primary goals of commercial organizations, is not easy to overcome. But to a certain degree it can be taken away by a national technology policy.
Regulation can force, guide and stimulate environmentally sustainability for the built environment by cooperating firms in building. The third level at which environmentally sustainability for the built environment can take place is the level of environmental regulations. Environmental regulation can be used to force and invite organizations to increase the environmental sustainability of their operations. Although it is a common premise that regulation in terms of norms, procedures, laws and control is useful and appropriate, there is also evidence for the argument that it hinders environmental innovation. Firms, for example, react strategically to environmental regulation. They scan which competitors and counterparts in their environment respond to regulatory pressure and then decide to do it in the same way, or differently, based on their competitive strategy. In addition, firms that are confronted with environmental regulation, often just comply with the rules. They neglect sustainable options that are not part of the rules and norms and do not exceed the regulated standards. Performance standards could be introduced because these have the benefit that these just define the measures of the expected environmental performance of firms, and not the exact specifications of the applied methods and processes to achieve a certain level of environmental sustainability. There is also the possibility to use regulation that stimulates firms to embrace environmental issues as new competitive opportunities. Regulation could facilitate the development of objective data on the comparative environmental performance of organizations in the industry and stimulate and reward the most innovative organizations in industry.
Financial incentives can support the development of environmentally sustainability for the built environment by cooperating building organizations. The fourth level at which the management of environmentally sustainability for the built environment can be situated is the level of environmental incentives that stimulate environmental innovation. Organizations primarily act on the social and economical pressure that is exerted by governments, institutions and communities. An important aspect is the stimulating effect of economic incentives on the environmental innovativeness of scientific and commercial organizations. The financial incentives of the government and institutions enable research institutes and companies to direct a part of their R&D-efforts towards the greening of their strategies, processes, products and services. Although funding and subsidies are generally stressed as means to stimulate sustainable development, it can also be argued that environmental innovation can be profitable by itself. Investments in environmental sustainability, especially in waste prevention practices, could result in decreasing costs of waste handling and emissions. But despite this, not every organization has the capability to profit from environmentally sustainable innovation. Most organizations need a strong foundation of innovative capabilities to be able to create and generate financial advantages of environmental management. When they do not have this basis, they heavily rely upon subsidies.
The special issue focuses on the state-of-the-art developments in this field. It is a theme that is of importance to both practitioners and scholars because of the increasing societal incentives to go green. The call for papers could focus on University Departments dedicated to the built environment. In the UK, USA, and Europe several departments are dedicated to this field. In addition, readership can focus on these scholars and on practitioners working for the government, institutions and commercial firms, who have to and want to innovate in the field of environmental sustainability in their planning- and building-related work.
Dr. Bart A.G. Bossink
- environmental sustainability
- sustainable construction
- green building