IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Institutions for sustainability—Towards an expanded research program for ecological economics


  • Vatn, Arild


Ecological economists are engaged in developing foundations for a sustainable future. To further develop our ability to deliver, I propose that we expand our analyses by a) drawing more on institutional theory and b) include also political processes in our research. The present political-economic system is unable to ensure sustainable futures. The paper argues that the root of the problem lies in its institutional structures. I illustrate possible changes to these that could take societies onto a sustainable development path. Focus here is on creating institutions able to strengthen the role of the future in decision-making. Here I focus on both political and economic institutions, illustrating how a change in these could ensure sustainability. I also discuss changes in environmental regulation strategies. The analyses of different options are used to illustrate what kind of studies are needed to advance sustainability. They form the basis for specifying directions that ecological economics could take to further support a necessary societal transformation process.

Suggested Citation

  • Vatn, Arild, 2020. "Institutions for sustainability—Towards an expanded research program for ecological economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 168(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:168:y:2020:i:c:s0921800919306706
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2019.106507

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    File URL:
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Unruh, Gregory C., 2002. "Escaping carbon lock-in," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 317-325, March.
    2. Farley, Joshua & Costanza, Robert & Flomenhoft, Gary & Kirk, Daniel, 2015. "The Vermont Common Assets Trust: An institution for sustainable, just and efficient resource allocation," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 71-79.
    3. Stephen Quilley & Katharine Zywert, 2019. "Livelihood, Market and State: What does A Political Economy Predicated on the ‘Individual-in-Group-in-PLACE’ Actually Look Like?," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 11(15), pages 1-23, July.
    4. Helmut Haberl & Marina Fischer‐Kowalski & Fridolin Krausmann & Joan Martinez‐Alier & Verena Winiwarter, 2011. "A socio‐metabolic transition towards sustainability? Challenges for another Great Transformation," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(1), pages 1-14, January/F.
    5. Arild Vatn, 2005. "Institutions and the Environment," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 2826.
    6. Aziz Atamanov & Joao Pedro Azevedo & R. Andres Castaneda Aguilar & Shaohua Chen & Paul A. Corral Rodas & Reno Dewina & Carolina Diaz-Bonilla & Dean M. Jolliffe & Christoph Lakner & Kihoon Lee & Daniel, 2018. "April 2018 PovcalNet Update: What’s New," Global Poverty Monitoring Technical Note Series 1, The World Bank.
    7. Pablo Muñoz & Boyd Cohen, 2018. "Sustainable Entrepreneurship Research: Taking Stock and looking ahead," Business Strategy and the Environment, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(3), pages 300-322, March.
    8. Joshua Gellers, 2012. "Greening Constitutions with Environmental Rights: Testing the Isomorphism Thesis," Review of Policy Research, Policy Studies Organization, vol. 29(4), pages 523-543, July.
    9. Vatn, Arild, 2005. "Rationality, institutions and environmental policy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 203-217, November.
    10. Joan Martínez Alier, 2001. "Environmental Conflicts, Environmental Justice, and Valuation," UHE Working papers 2001_03, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Departament d'Economia i Història Econòmica, Unitat d'Història Econòmica.
    11. Sjaastad, Espen & Angelsen, Arild & Vedeld, Pål & Bojö, Jan, 2005. "What is environmental income?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 37-46, October.
    12. World Bank, 2012. "Inclusive Green Growth : The Pathway to Sustainable Development," World Bank Publications - Books, The World Bank Group, number 6058.
    13. Michael B. Wironen & Robert V. Bartlett & Jon D. Erickson, 2019. "Deliberation and the Promise of a Deeply Democratic Sustainability Transition," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 11(4), pages 1-18, February.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    RePEc Biblio mentions

    As found on the RePEc Biblio, the curated bibliography for Economics:
    1. > Schools of Economic Thought, Epistemology of Economics > Heterodox Approaches > Ecological Economics


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Allain, Sandrine & Salliou, Nicolas, 2022. "Making differences legible: Incommensurability as a vehicle for sustainable landscape management," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 191(C).
    2. Hukkinen, Janne I. & Eronen, Jussi T. & Janasik, Nina & Järvensivu, Paavo & Kaaronen, Roope O., 2022. "Coping with policy errors in an era of chronic socio-environmental crises," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 199(C).
    3. Lundgren, Jakob, 2022. "Unity through disunity: Strengths, values, and tensions in the disciplinary discourse of ecological economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 191(C).
    4. García-García, Pablo & Buendía, Luis & Carpintero, Óscar, 2022. "Welfare regimes as enablers of just energy transitions: Revisiting and testing the hypothesis of synergy for Europe," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 197(C).
    5. Buchs, Arnaud & Calvo-Mendieta, Iratxe & Petit, Olivier & Roman, Philippe, 2021. "Challenging the ecological economics of water: Social and political perspectives," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 190(C).
    6. Gaygysyz Ashyrov & Helen Poltimäe, 2022. "Does Corruption Hinder Firm Energy Efficiency? Evidence From Vietnam," University of Tartu - Faculty of Economics and Business Administration Working Paper Series 137, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, University of Tartu (Estonia).

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Foxon, Timothy J., 2011. "A coevolutionary framework for analysing a transition to a sustainable low carbon economy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(12), pages 2258-2267.
    2. Bobulescu, Roxana & Fritscheova, Aneta, 2021. "Convivial innovation in sustainable communities: Four cases in France," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 181(C).
    3. Del Corso, Jean-Pierre & Kephaliacos, Charilaos & Plumecocq, Gaël, 2015. "Legitimizing farmers' new knowledge, learning and practices through communicative action: Application of an agro-environmental policy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 86-96.
    4. Stefani, Gianluca & Lombardi, Ginevra Virginia & Romano, Donato & Cei, Leonardo, 2017. "Grass Root Collective Action for Territorially Integrated Food Supply Chains: A Case Study from Tuscany," International Journal on Food System Dynamics, International Center for Management, Communication, and Research, vol. 8(4), October.
    5. Norgaard, Richard B., 2010. "Ecosystem services: From eye-opening metaphor to complexity blinder," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(6), pages 1219-1227, April.
    6. Kvakkestad, Valborg, 2009. "Institutions and the R&D of GM-crops," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(10), pages 2688-2695, August.
    7. Trædal, Leif Tore & Vedeld, Pål Olav & Pétursson, Jón Geir, 2016. "Analyzing the transformations of forest PES in Vietnam: Implications for REDD+," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 109-117.
    8. Spash, Clive L. & Vatn, Arild, 2006. "Transferring environmental value estimates: Issues and alternatives," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 379-388, December.
    9. Vatn, Arild, 2009. "An institutional analysis of methods for environmental appraisal," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(8-9), pages 2207-2215, June.
    10. Padmanabhan, Martina, 2011. "Women and men as conservers, users and managers of agrobiodiversity," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 40(6), pages 968-976.
    11. Clive L Spash, 2009. "Social Ecological Economics," Socio-Economics and the Environment in Discussion (SEED) Working Paper Series 2009-08, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems.
    12. Røpke, Inge, 2020. "Econ 101—In need of a sustainability transition," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 169(C).
    13. Spash, Clive L., 2007. "Deliberative monetary valuation (DMV): Issues in combining economic and political processes to value environmental change," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(4), pages 690-699, September.
    14. Stefani, G. & Lombardi, G.V. & Romano, D. & Cei, L., 2017. "Green Root Collective Action for Conservation of Agri-Bio Diversity: a Case Study in Tuscany," International Journal on Food System Dynamics, International Center for Management, Communication, and Research, vol. 2017(1), June.
    15. Dimitrios Zikos, 2020. "Revisiting the Role of Institutions in Transformative Contexts: Institutional Change and Conflicts," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(21), pages 1-20, October.
    16. Jean-David Gerber, Stéphane Nahrath, 2013. "Beitrag zur Entwicklung eines Ressourcenansatzes der Nachhaltigkeit," Diskussionsschriften credresearchpaper03, Universitaet Bern, Departement Volkswirtschaft - CRED.
    17. Kathleen McAfee, 2012. "The Contradictory Logic of Global Ecosystem Services Markets," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 43(1), pages 105-131, January.
    18. Lars Hein & Pete Roberts & Lucia Gonzalez, 2016. "Valuing a Statistical Life Year in Relation to Clean Air," Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management (JEAPM), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 18(04), pages 1-24, December.
    19. Roel Plant & Spike Boydell & Jason Prior & Joanne Chong & Aleta Lederwasch, 2017. "From liability to opportunity: An institutional approach towards value-based land remediation," Environment and Planning C, , vol. 35(2), pages 197-220, March.
    20. Scheidel, Arnim & Farrell, Katharine N., 2015. "Small-scale cooperative banking and the production of capital: Reflecting on the role of institutional agreements in supporting rural livelihood in Kampot, Cambodia," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 230-240.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:168:y:2020:i:c:s0921800919306706. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Catherine Liu (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.