One Planet Living and the legitimacy of sustainability governance: From standardised information to regenerative systems

Gerhards, J. 2021. One Planet Living and the legitimacy of sustainability governance: From standardised information to regenerative systems. PhD thesis University of Westminster School of Social Sciences https://doi.org/10.34737/vq22y

TitleOne Planet Living and the legitimacy of sustainability governance: From standardised information to regenerative systems
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsGerhards, J.
Abstract

The past two decades have witnessed an increased use of voluntary governance instruments providing guidance on sustainability strategy and/or monitoring, rewarding users with marketable public information such as certifications, ratings, and reports, to incentivise take-up. To support trustworthy information, these instruments are typically based on standardised assessment criteria. Such standardisation has been applied across increasingly complex varied contexts, such as companies, neighbourhoods, and cities. However, recent academic literature emphasises more context-sensitive and systems-based, or ‘regenerative’, approaches, giving cause for questioning the effectiveness of standardised approaches. This thesis uses the concept of ‘legitimacy’ to evaluate instruments, based on promoting effective programmes, achieving take-up and systemic effectiveness, and providing public information that is high quality rather than reflecting positively on business-as-usual practices. Existing research finds that standardised approaches have achieved take-up at the expense of programme effectiveness and informational quality. Although research calls for alternative approaches compatible with a systems-based or regenerative perspective, there remains a shortage of empirical investigations of established instruments based on this perspective. This research addresses this need by evaluating Bioregional’s One Planet Living framework, using a practice-embedded, mixed-methods methodology. The framework is found to promote effective, participatory, and generally transparent programmes. However, the flexible, bespoke approach can provide limitations in terms of structure, resource requirements, and the integration of measurement, which can affect take-up as well as programme processes and transparency. Overall, the research provides insights into the role that voluntary instruments can play in sustainability governance across complex and varied contexts. Despite their widespread usage and ability to scale, standardised approaches have major limitations in the important matter of supporting effective programmes. OPL’s regenerative approach can support programmes effectively but has limitations particularly in relation to take-up, partly reflecting the more bespoke model, and partly reflecting the more fundamental problem of mobilising ambitious action on a voluntary basis. The question of scaling such practices remains of urgent importance.

Year2021
File
File Access Level
Open (open metadata and files)
PublisherUniversity of Westminster
Publication dates
PublishedMay 2021
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.34737/vq22y

Related outputs

One Planet Living and the legitimacy of sustainability governance: From standardised information to regenerative systems
Gerhards, Jan and Greenwood, Dan 2021. One Planet Living and the legitimacy of sustainability governance: From standardised information to regenerative systems. Journal of Cleaner Production. 313 127895. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2021.127895

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