Policing and polluting: the role of practices in contemporary urban environmental pollution governance

Ralph Horne, Yolande Strengers, Anna Strempel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Over the past 30 years, urban environmental pollution governance has been increasingly influenced by ideas of New Public Management. However, there is increasing evidence that it is failing in its promise to deliver efficient and effective regulation. The critiques are mounting of risk-based approaches, where regulators are increasingly accountable for the costs (and benefits) of their interventions upon firms. There is a particular lack of research on the role of conduct and practices involved on the ‘front line’ of regulation. This constrains our ability to understand how more efficient effective urban environmental pollution control might develop. This paper focuses on the regulator field officers and business duty holders of environmental compliance, who have direct contact in the processes and administration of regulation. Applying theories of social practice to environmental regulation, the paper provides new insights into compliance and enforcement practices, as these workers seek to prevent pollution, remediate sites and manage waste. The analysis reveals disconnects between expectations of enforcing and managing compliance; and between practices of policing and polluting. Using an ethnographic-informed approach to understand the social practices of regulation has not been attempted in this way before. It reveals new insights into limitations of current approaches to regulation, and indicates interventions that could lead to improved compliance outcomes in a post-New Public Management era in urban pollution governance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-118
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Governance
  • New Public Management
  • Pollution
  • Social practices

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