Når miljøet håndteres: Videnskonstruktioner i og omkring virksomhedens miljøarbejde

Erik Hagelskjær Lauridsen

    Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesis

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    The thesis “Managing the Environment - Knowledge Constructions in and around the Environ¬mental Efforts of the Company” raises the question: How can we understand and describe the concrete environmental problems that are a part of companies’ environmental achievements, while maintaining them as products of heterogeneous constitution processes. On this basis, the thesis describes how company related environmental problems are constructed in a play between actors with different interests. Here science is designated the role as an objective third party, which leads to a polarization of science and politics. In these processes, the environment is transformed from being an abstract unity without configuration, as in the general conception of the environment, to being a number of concrete particular problems that are punctualized as compo¬nents of environ¬mental science. The thesis analyses how the character of the environmental problems changes in relation to changes in the environmental legislation and the environmental achievements of companies. The thesis discusses theoretical elements for such a description of the environment which involves a number of themes from recent debates in the sociology of science and technology. Elements from Actor-Network Theory and Science for Policy studies are used to conceptualize and analyze the processes that constitute and stabilize companies’ environmental problems in specific confi¬gu¬ra¬tions. The environmental problems are conceptualized as representations of the environment and conceived as results of specific chain of events and embedded in a number of concrete prac¬tices. The theoretical discussion has two main lines. The one is a discussion of how represen¬tations of the environment function as mediators, i.e. as knowledge transfer agents inside science as well as between science and politics. The other is a discussion of how this boundary between science and politics contributes to the constitution of the environment, so that this appears as characterized by partly pre-structured domains, called environmental regulatory arenas. The empirical basis of the thesis is a case study of how the concrete environment is constituted in and around the mineralwool factory of Rockwool A/S in Hedehusene south of Copenhagen. The thesis presents three case stories using the case company as a point of departure, each reflecting the constitution of concrete environmental problems on a specific environmental regulatory arena. The first case story is on how an EU classification norm determining potential cancerous effects from mineral wool fibres, is set up. This case story describes how environmental problems become concrete on the ‘norm-regulation arena’. The classification norms are constituted as heterogeneous elements, when production machinery, themes of the public environmental discourse and standard scientific practice are mobilised, enrolled and translated through a crucial scientific network in order to take part in the ‘political’ negotiation processes. The mineralwool fibre is at the centre of a ‘scientific’ construction, where it is also the fibre itself that is translated, (re)defined and becoming an entity. The concrete fibre does not appear as a product of an open-minded scientist uncovering the secrets of nature, but rather as a product of meticulous negotiation processes, where ‘political’ conflicts of interest are incorporated into a scientific procedure. The second case story is on how the case factory is awarded an environmental permit by the local environmental authorities. This case story describes how environmental problems become concrete as specific conditions on the ‘administration arena’. The environment constituted with the condi¬tions of the environmental permit, is a product of interpretation and juxtaposition of a number of relations of production, as the case company has to account for the environmental problems caused by different production processes. The case describes how in particular two environmental problems are developed through this process: an ‘original’ smell problem, and a ‘new’ noise problem. The smell problem contributes to a large extent to the factory being conceived as an environmental nuisance in the local area by neighbours, the nature conservation society, civil servants and local politicians. In this situation, the authority of the local administration fails to keep the existing regulation of the factory as a stable construction. The regulation is re-stabilised by delegating authority to a number of norms, so that they are empowered to select and specify the essential environmental problems. However, in the concretizing of the smell problem the lack of precise smell measurements is used by the company to establish a wide interpretative flexibility of the representation of smell. By doing this, the company is successful in limiting the consequences of the formal regulation of smell imposed by the authorities. At the same time a concrete problem of noise is established as one of the most pronounced results of the formal regu¬lation, even though the noise problem hardly existed as a general concern before the develop¬ment of the environmental permit. Thus, it is noise which is managed and regulated, and not smell because noise through its embedding in measuring instruments, procedures and practices, is a stronger representation of the environment than the comparative representation of smell. The third case story describes the environment, which is constituted in the context of the volun¬tary self-organised environmental efforts of the company, as an ISO 14000 environmental manage¬ment system is implemented. The case describes the conception of the environment pre¬scribed with the DEPA’s ‘product-oriented environmental initiative’, and how this conception is incorporated into the process of concretizing the environment as part of the case company’s environmental accoun¬t¬ing and established priorities. These efforts in the company to establish well functioning concrete environmental problems are juxtaposed with the standardised prescriptions of how the self-orga¬nised environmental effort shall uncover an environment, which has already been made an attribute of nature. The environmental priorities of the company were made by a pragmatic combination of especially technical possibilities and economic consi¬derations. The management, which established the priorities, charac¬terises the result as established on “common sense”. However, in the public environ¬mental account the significant environmental aspects of the company are not pre¬sented as a result of practical consideration, but rather through the categories of the scientific life-cycle assessment methodology. The prescriptions for the self-organised environmental efforts are thus incorporated into the company’s environmental efforts through a scientific account of the company’s ”significant environmental aspects”, but the prescriptions are not contributing to the concrete development of the company’s specific environmental priorities and goals. At the end of the thesis there is a thematic discussion based on the case stories. The recurrent theme is how the concrete environmental problems are developed in parallel with and as a part of the environmental regulation. The concrete environmental problems are a result of a meeting between the administrations continuous attempts to develop essential descriptions and the complex and heterogeneous networks that in practice constitute the environmental problems as manageable identities.
    Original languageDanish
    Place of PublicationKgs. Lyngby
    PublisherTechnical University of Denmark
    Number of pages282
    ISBN (Print)87-91-03554-6
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2003

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