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Environmental Sustainability: A Case of Policy Implementation Failure?


  • Michael Howes

    (Griffith School of Environment and Cities Research Institute, Griffith University, Southport, QLD 4222, Australia)

  • Liana Wortley

    (Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Governance, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2007, Australia)

  • Ruth Potts

    (School of Environment, Science, and Engineering, Southern Cross University, East Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia)

  • Aysin Dedekorkut-Howes

    (Griffith School of Environment and Cities Research Institute, Griffith University, Southport, QLD 4222, Australia)

  • Silvia Serrao-Neumann

    (CRC Water Sensitive Cities and Cities Research Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, QLD 4111, Australia)

  • Julie Davidson

    (Discipline of Geography and Spatial Sciences, School of Land and Food, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS 7005, Australia)

  • Timothy Smith

    (Sustainability Research Centre, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, QLD 4556, Australia)

  • Patrick Nunn

    (Sustainability Research Centre, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, QLD 4556, Australia)


For a generation, governments around the world have been committed to sustainable development as a policy goal. This has been supported by an array of new policies ranging from international agreements, to national strategies, environmental laws at many levels of government, regional programs, and local plans. Despite these efforts, decades of scientific monitoring indicate that the world is no closer to environmental sustainability and in many respects the situation is getting worse. This paper argues that a significant contributing factor to this situation is policy implementation failure. A systematic review of the literature reveals that the failure to achieve the intended outcomes of environmental policies is due to economic, political and communication factors. Conflict between the objectives of environmental policies and those focused on economic development, a lack of incentives to implement environmental policies, and a failure to communicate objectives to key stakeholders are all key factors that contribute to the inability to attain environmental sustainability.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Howes & Liana Wortley & Ruth Potts & Aysin Dedekorkut-Howes & Silvia Serrao-Neumann & Julie Davidson & Timothy Smith & Patrick Nunn, 2017. "Environmental Sustainability: A Case of Policy Implementation Failure?," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 9(2), pages 1-17, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:2:p:165-:d:88695

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    References listed on IDEAS

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