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Public policy processes and the environment: implications for a sustainable future

Christopher L. Atkinson (School of Public Administration, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida, USA)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 28 October 2014




The purpose of this paper is to explore the roots of environment policy through a review and application of policy literature, portraying a disjointed process worried with procedure over substance and too often removed from the reality of environment degradation and attainment of sustainability.


The paper involves literature review and application of policy literature to sustainability.


Government is responsible for protecting the environment in the face of rapid industrial growth, but ineffectiveness in and misunderstanding of the policy process, confounded by a multitude of actors and interests, and, often inadequate resourcing, threaten the possibility of sustainability.

Research limitations/implications

Policy literature is voluminous. This paper seeks to apply public policy literature to the concept of sustainability, but a comprehensive review of all literature would be beyond the scope of a journal article.

Practical implications

There is a separation between academic approaches to public policy and complex policy processes in practice. More nuanced sophisticated understanding of the policy process in the literature may allow for greater application to difficult policy problems like sustainability.

Social implications

Sustainability is critical and should be promoted by public policy; however, interactions within the policy process are difficult and textbook approaches to defining or delineating processes are insufficient to encourage greater understanding of sustainability and how it may actually be achieved through public policy.


Application of policy literature to sustainability in this manner is fairly unique in the literature.



The author is grateful for the feedback received from anonymous reviewers over the course of the peer-review process.


L. Atkinson, C. (2014), "Public policy processes and the environment: implications for a sustainable future", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 457-475.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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