, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 21-44

The role of the state in voluntary environmental reform: A case study of public land

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Abstract

Conventional environmental reform is characterized by the compliance of firms with direct regulatory pressure from the state. Scholars are now turning their attention to alternative modes of reform where firms proactively improve their operations through the implementation of voluntary environmental strategies (VES). While previous research on VES has typically focused on the manufacturing sector, this study explores challenges to corporate greening in the natural resource extractive sector when strategies are undertaken on public land. Findings from two case study regions in the Canadian province of Alberta suggest that VES undertaken on public land are significantly constrained by certain features of the system of environmental governance and the regulatory regime, particularly the reluctance of the state to be involved as a co-regulator of public land. The importance of solid leadership from the state in environmental reform – including cases of voluntary corporate initiatives – is discussed.