The norms, rules and motivational values driving sustainable remediation of contaminated environments: A study of implementation

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Science of the Total Environment, 2016, 544 pp. 824 - 836
Issue Date:
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© 2015 Elsevier B.V. Efforts to achieve sustainability are transforming the norms, rules and values that affect the remediation of contaminated environments. This is altering the ways in which remediation impacts on the total environment. Despite this transformation, few studies have provided systematic insights into the diverse norms and rules that drive the implementation of sustainable remediation at contaminated sites, and no studies have investigated how values motivate compliance with these norms and rules. This study is a systematic analysis of the rules, norms and motivational values embedded in sustainable remediation processes at three sites across Australia, using in-depth interviews conducted with 18 participants between 2011 and 2014, through the application of Crawford and Ostrom's Institutional Grammar and Schwartz's value framework. These approaches offered methods for identifying the rules, norms, and motivational values that guided participants' actions within remediation processes at these sites. The findings identify a core set of 16 norms and 18 rules (sanctions) used by participants to implement sustainable remediation at the sites. These norms and rules: define the position of participants within the process, provide means for incorporating sustainability into established remediation practices, and define the scope of outcomes that constitute sustainable remediation. The findings revealed that motivational values focused on public interest and self-interest influenced participants' compliance with norms and rules. The findings also found strong interdependence between the norms and rules (sanctions) within the remediation processes and the normative principles operating within the broader domain of environmental management and planning. The paper concludes with a discussion of: the system of norms operating within sustainable remediation (which far exceed those associated with ESD); their link, through rules (sanctions) to contemporary styles of regulatory enforcement; and the underlying balance of public-interest values and self-interest values that drives participants' involvement in sustainable remediation.
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