9.2 Environmental Sustainability in the Russian Federation: Assessing the Potential for new forms of 'societal governance'?

Jo Crotty , Strategy, Aston University Business School, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Peter Rodgers , Strategy, Aston University Business School, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Dr. Jo Crotty (Aston Business School, Aston University, United Kingdom), email: j.crotty@aston.ac.uk (Lead author)
Dr. Peter Rodgers (Aston Business School, Aston University, United Kingdom), email:
p.rodgers1@aston.ac.uk (second author)
Environmental Sustainability in the Russian Federation: assessing the potential for new forms of ‘societal governance’?
This paper examines the inter-relationships between the Russian state, private firms and Russian environmental NGOs in an effort to determine to what extent new forms of ‘societal governance’ are developing in Russia in the area of sustainable development. This paper outlines the results of empirical research undertaken in a Russian region during 2008, which involved interviews undertaken with a variety of actors including state officials, environmental regulators, company directors, company environmental experts and Russian environmental activists.
In 2000, Goskomekologiya Russia’s State Ministry for Environmental protection, a key stakeholder on pollution control in Russian firms was abolished. Such an example of a retreating state in Russia vis-à-vis environmental protection has occurred with Russia increasingly being governed by a system of blended elites or ‘state corporatism’. In order to consider the consequences of the corporation supplanting or substituting for the state, Matten & Crane’s model of corporate citizenship is used as a theoretical framework (Matten & Crane: 2005). They argue that where firms take on such a role or where ruling and business elites are blended, that the firm becomes a purveyor of citizenship rights onto its constituents or stakeholders. This stands in contrast to the more traditional corporate social responsibility view that sees the firm as a citizen with attendant responsibilities, including environmental protection This article purports placing Matten and Crane’s treatise within the broader political philosophical framework of Habermas which seeks to examine how changes brought about by globalising processes are intrinsically impacting on forms of global governance, state-societal relations and in particular the  ability of governments to regulate economic activity. Habermas argues that with the emergence of globalisation, economic activities have increasingly crossed the previously territory-bound validity of state regulation and thus undermined the sovereignty of nation-states, namely the state’s ability to independently set rules regarding private economic activities within its territory of control (Habermas 2001). As Habermas states, there is a need to move towards new understandings of societal governance, arguing that the legitimacy of ‘state-like’ actions of private corporations ultimately depends on the political embeddedness of the corporation and its actions. In particular, focus is given to the role of self-regulation of the corporation itself, and to what extent such processes take place in collaboration with civil society actors such as NGOs and citizens themselves. In such a fashion, the researcher can address the issue of legitimacy, relating to how, when and if the ‘state-like’ corporation can be controlled and regulated in a democratic fashion and thus legitimate itself as a political actor and in a more general sense, one can determine to what extent new forms of ‘societal governance’ are emerging in Russia in the field of environmental sustainability. As such, this paper examines to what extent in Russia strategic partnerships between corporations, civil society and government structures are creating ‘boundary-spanning’ dialogue, helping to resolve challenges of sustainable development (Eweje 2007)
In this paper we raise a number of questions with regards the impact of state corporatism on environmental sustainability in Russia. Do Russian firms – despite their ability to influence government policy and decision making – view themselves as corporate citizens, with a responsibility to protect the environment; or do they now see themselves as purveyors of citizenship, and thus upholders of an individual’s right to a clean environment? Alternatively, Russian firms may see themselves as neither citizen, nor purveyor of citizenship – an outcome of state-corporatism unacknowledged by Matten and Crane – and simply use their position to sidestep the need to undertake any pollution control activity. Finally, we seek to assess the response of the Russian environmental movement vis-à-vis the emergence of state-corporatism and the retreating Russian state by assessing to what extent Russian environmental NGOs see themselves as citizens? To what extent can Russian environmental NGOs influence firm behaviour vis-à-vis the environment? To what extent can Russian environmental NGOs influence government policy making in the sphere of environmental protection?
Keywords: governance, environment, sustainability, Russia, state, business, civil society