Sociocultural Methodology for Managing Environmental Protection Activities

Environmental institutions base their activities on the dominating system of values and views inherent in society’s culture, whereas the culture of interaction between Society and Nature is constantly developing and improving, constituting, ultimately, the heritage of Mankind. This message is the basis for the cross-disciplinary approach that has been verified by the experienced controller — the practice.

History has seen many examples of cultural traditions that had, along with a positive impact, negative consequences — oppression, environmental degradation. Meanwhile, the emergence of new technologies and ideas can stimulate both decay and rise of cultures.

I believe that the role of cultures in environmental protection is constantly increasing. This, if you will, is a response to increased economic globalization, which, in contrast, stimulates unification of national institutions of environmental regulation. However, modern civilization does not teach us to live in harmony with nature. Thus, in the early 21th century, we observe an odd mixture of the flurry of religious fanaticism in many regions of the planet and man’s urge to take from nature everything he could wish for.

Furthermore, we should not forget that we live in an era of change characterized by mass implementation of a great number of globally significant critical technologies. It is difficult to forecast their joint impact on sustainable development with a necessary degree of accuracy. For example, according to experts, the most significant areas of radical innovation include 3D printing (especially for the shipbuilding industry), digital logistics, waste management, processing industry, knowledge, and communications.

For environmental protection, it is important that development of any novel basic technologies changes the institutional environment. Meanwhile, the occurring transition to a new technological way of life aggravates sociocultural controversies in a number of countries and breeds social conflicts, including those relating to natural resource use. As we aim to avoid negative scenarios for the future of humanity, it has been recognized that the positivistic approach should be supplemented with elements of the normative one in studying the living system “Society-Nature”, which is evidenced by the adoption of Global Goals for Sustainable Development in 2015.

The actual start of the transition to a new economy has worsened the problem of lagging behind associated with the changes in the structure, culture and practice of development of social systems. As a result, there is a time-lag in institutional change in many countries. In this situation, many currently used environmental protection mechanisms are no longer efficient. Some of them even impede innovation-based “green” growth and require reassessment.

Environmental institutions are inseparable from territorial institutional systems with their single basic matrixes, in which culture determines the relationship between norms and rules that become the basis for professional and personal practice.

As early as 2004, in my book “Managing Environmental Protection: Sociocultural Methodology”, I came to a conclusion that “sociocultural adjustment” of institutional systems plays an increasing role in the transition to a new state of society. It is important to rely on the sociocultural fundamentals of each society and to increase simultaneously a number of acceptable solutions for actual resource managers in a particular institutional environment! For environmental protection, it means the recognition of the efficiency of sociocultural construction of new environmental protection mechanisms and adjustment of universal institutions for conditions of particular territories, reflecting the risks of global environmental threats.

This methodology allowed to make conclusions that are crucially important for modern environmental management and can be formulated in theoretical-methodological and applied aspects.

In theoretical and methodological terms, the change in the view of the role and importance of sociocultural peculiarities of territories in managing environmental protection activities is justified because management humanization changes the approaches to institutional analysis of environmental protection. It focuses on establishing an ad hoc approach based on sociocultural peculiarities of territorial development. Similar approaches are inspired by the model of “responsible man” proposed by the author based on the theory and models of neo-institutionalism and social economy. This model takes into account a number of self-imposed limitations that are based on understanding of the necessity to prevent a possible environmental disaster. The model, which combines economic and value-based aspects of behavior, allows to study motivations of environmental protection actions of individuals and their local communities. Meanwhile, its orientation towards protection of interests of not only the present but also the future generations is an effective tool of analysis of institutional changes in environmental protection.

In the applied aspect, the sociocultural methodology for managing environmental protection activities allowed to discover the following. The typical feature of today’s environmental protection management is the active import of unified environmental institutions. It is mainly based on the experience of economically developed countries. Assessment of the effectiveness of such import is always territorially concretized and can be conducted using the algorithms developed by the author.

Importing environmental institutions into sociocultural conditions of different territories inevitably results in conflicts. Environmental protection management should be focused on prevention and mitigation of such conflicts. For this purpose, I have justified and proposed a group of methods for instrumental regulation. In particular, they include methods for assessing the effectiveness of institutional changes in environmental protection in particular territories — an indicator of environmental compatibility of institutional territorial matrixes and the effectiveness rate of institutional changes in environmental protection.

Based on the most important areas of the impact of sociocultural peculiarities of territories on environmental institutions that have been identified, the author developed new approaches to program-oriented systemic territorial environmental protection management. Their specific feature is the increased role of local strategies, plans of actions and network interactions under the conditions of increasing trends of economic globalization.

Developing studies in the area of sociocultural methodology for managing environmental protection activities, out team (Georgy Fomenko, Doctor of Sciences; Мarina Fomenko, Candidate of Sciences; Konstantin Loshadkin, Candidate of Sciences; Anastasia Mikhailova, Candidate of Sciences; Olga Ladygina, Candidate of Technical Sciences and other scientists) conducted an in-depth analysis of environmental protection indicators and development of environmental and economic reporting systems, including assessment of possible areas of their humanization. We were the first in Russia to apply Hofstede’s cultural indices to studying the efficiency of environmental institutional systems. This research is described in a number of books and papers (“Environmental Protection Management with Regard to the Sociocultural Factor” (2000), “Environmental Institutions in Modern Russia” (2010), “Institutional Restrictions and Regulation of Environmental Management” (2012), “Institutional Peculiarities of Environmental Management in Russia” (2013), “The Sociocultural Dimension of Development of Environmental Institutions» (2014), etc.).

The approaches of the sociocultural methodology for managing environmental protection are actively used by specialists of “Resources and Consulting” Group in environmental protection design to improve its quality and efficiency. Another research result that is no less important is the development and implementation in certain regions of the country of new environmental strategies and environmental regulation tools reflected in the books “The Economic Transition and Nature Conservation: Sociocultural Aspects” (2016), Environmental-Economic Accounting in Sustainable Resource Use. Theory and Practice (2019).

At present, these works are being performed by a group of trained consultants in regions and cities of Russia and by qualified trainers. This type of consulting and business coaching is an important part of activities of “Resources and Consulting” Group. It is conducted within the framework of “Water Use and Environmental Engineering” Master’s Degree program.

This is a brief overview of the author’s ideas of the fundamentals of the sociocultural methodology for managing environmental protection activities that he would like to share with the website users.