Dr. Hyunjung Ji (The University of Alabama) and Dr. Nicole Darnall (Arizona State University)
Journal Article in Regulation & Governance, July 20, 2020
Local governments nationwide have been adopting a variety of sustainability practices in the absence of strong federal guidance. The collection of these practices, which differ in design, forms the local government’s sustainability strategy. Some local governments may develop a more focused sustainability strategy to achieve more predictable environmental benefits around a narrower array of environmental issues. By contrast, other local governments are developing a more comprehensive sustainability strategy that is more broadly focused to address complex, interconnected environmental issues. However, the external conditions that give rise to these different strategies is not well understood. Drawing on data for more than 950 U.S. municipal governments, this study provides important evidence that local governments’ comprehensive sustainability strategies are influenced more by their community contituents and external environmental settings, with greater pressures in particular from constituents in new economy industries and environmental NGOs. These strategies are also more strongly related to higher disaster risk in the external environmental setting than more focused sustainability strategies. These findings broaden our understanding about why local governments’ sustainability strategies differ in their design, which may provide a starting point for understanding how different sustainability strategies relate to actual environmental performance outcomes.