Environmental concern of companies has gradually expanded from a focus on local environmental problems (e.g. air, water and soil) to a broader inclusion of inputs (e.g. resources, materials and energy) as well as the whole production chain and products (among others Remmen 2001, Kørnøv 2007, Jørgensen 2009). Likewise, the regulatory approach has changed from a “pure” Command and Control regime, towards a so-called governance approach, where regulations increasingly are supplemented with other regulatory instruments such as economic incentives, information and facilitation. Besides, the role of both public authorities and “regulated” parties has changed (among others Bäckstrand et al. 2010, Weale et al. 2003; Jänicke 2008)
In Denmark, municipalities are responsible for regulating companies. Since the 1990s it has been discussed how municipalities could play a more facilitating role in “regulating” companies. However most still rely on traditional command and control mechanism
The purpose of this paper it to assess the obstacles local civil servants in Denmark experience when addressing broader environmental concerns as part of their work as supervising authority.
Theoretical framework: Governance
In order to investigate the experiences of local civil servants, we have conducted interviews with several local civil servants and we have made a review of several policy and regulatory documents.
Even though various initiatives (e.g. pollution prevention, implementation of an Environmental Management System) have been included as a central parameter in EU regulation (e.g. IPPC/IED) and national legislation, and several initiatives have been established at local level to supplement command and control regulation with other instruments, it seems that companies still are mainly regulated by means of command and control regulation in relation to the traditional environmental parameters of air, noise, water, soil and waste.
The regulation of companies in Denmark has over the last decades moved in a direction where several requirements are formulated as standard requirements. Local authorities have to assess whether or not the requirements are relevant to apply or not. In theory, this could lead to more resources for local civil servants; resources that could be used to focus more on a facilitating role. However, civil servants fear that it can be used as argument to cut down resources instead. Likewise, civil servants apply a minimum frequency strategy with regard to enforcement, a kind of risk assessment. This means that they focus on those companies that are most likely not complying with the regulations rather than keeping up the dialog with the more proactive companies.
In this research we have conducted interviews with several local civil servants and asked them about their work and the degree in which they put emphasis on pollution prevention and aspects like resource consumption and energy.
Even though most civil servants don't conceive that they have legal basis for applying requirements related to these issues, they argue that there is room for using a more facilitating role. However, they don’t conceive it as something they are obliged to and thus depended on the local political focus and prioritisations.