Business and Green Knowledge Production in Sweden 1960s-1980s
34 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2017
Date Written: December 12, 2017
This working paper contributes to the burgeoning historical literature which has transformed our understanding about the relationship between big business and the environmental regulation. It used to be believed that corporate managers resisted the extra costs imposed by environmental regulation from the 1960s. This argument was primarily based on empirical evidence from the United States. It has now been established by a new generation of researchers that corporate responses were not homogeneous. There were major variations between individual managers, companies, industrial sectors and national business systems. This working paper supports this re-interpretation by examining the case of Sweden, where the relationship between big business and government turns out to be different from that in the United States. It shows that big business emerged as a constructive player in environmental policy in the 1960s, when it persuaded the government to establish a joint research institute known as the IVL and a closely connected consulting company to address pollution. IVL developed an important role as knowledge producer and as an intermediary of environmental knowledge between the late 1960s and the 1980s. The proactive response of Swedish big business is shown to have been based on a belief that efficient pollution control policies and regulations needed to be based on hard science and engineering knowledge. To achieve this, collaboration with the Swedish government was seen as instrumental and joint R & D was regarded as a means to share knowledge and costs. The study ends by noting that in the 1980s the pivotal role of IVL transitioned as environmental challenges evolved, Swedish universities assumed leadership in creating environmental knowledge, while conventional management consultancies entered the market of environmental management.
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