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Guld och gröna skogar?: miljöanpassningen av Rönnskärsverken 1960-2000
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economic History.
2007 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this thesis is to reach further understanding of the development of environmental adaptation in Swedish heavy industry by studying the case of the Rönnskär Smelter 1960-2000. More specifically, the aim of the thesis is to investigate the interplay between firm level environmental adaptation and national environmental politics and economic development. To fulfil this aim, the following questions are asked: How have company activities such as production processes, organisation and company strategies been developed and adopted in order to meet environmental demands with maintained competitiveness? How have company activities been framed by environmental policies and the specific environmental regulations, relevant for this case? What other factors, beside environmental regulations, have driven and framed the environmental adaptation process of the firm?

The study concludes that a long-range competitive environmental adaptation was reached by a combination of investments in environmental technology with an overall rationalisation and modernisation of the enterprise. The study suggests that the environmental adaptation process of the Rönnskär Smelter became part of an overall process of industrial modernisation during the period, which reflects a wider context than the environmental issue itself. It mirrors technological development on other fields than the environment, and an increasing competition on a global scale that called for lower unit costs of production. This led to a modernisation for pollution reduction strategy that enabled the firm to increase production but still cutting its pollution levels considerably over time. The result is partly consistent with the Porter hypothesis that suggests that strict environmental regulation can strengthen firms’ and nations’ competitiveness. Time series data shows that emissions from the Rönnskär factory have radically declined since the 1960s. For these changes, process technology has proven to be most important. Technological adjustments came about through a step-by-step adaptation. It is clear that internal solutions, developed by the companies’ own engineers were more important at an early stage, when the supply of external solutions was limited. The study also concludes that environmental regulation has strongly influenced the environmental adaptation at the Rönnskär Smelter. Of most importance is the Environmental Protection Act (EPA: Miljöskyddslagen) implemented in 1969. In the economic historian Nathan Rosenberg’s terminology, this study suggests that the EPA model of individual testing promoted long-term innovative and cost-effective technical solutions, because it was consistent with decentralised experimental activity and the specific conditions that characterise the dynamics of technological development. However, not much can be said before comparative studies within the Swedish system have been conducted, or perhaps most fruitful, between various national systems of environmental protection. This study also concludes that the environmental issue became of strategic dignity at the very beginning of the 1970s, mainly as a consequence of the implementation of the EPA. Even though environmental issues did not become important for market strategies until the 1990s, the environmental issue called already in the 1970s for adjustments that required financial and personnel resources that demanded priorities and strategic decisions at the highest level of the organisation. The study also concludes that even though the technological dimension has played the most decisive role for lowering emissions, the significance of organisation has increased over time. While the 1960s, and especially the 1970s, brought about substantial pollution reductions through new technology, organisational aspects became relatively more important when the costs of abatement were rising in the 1980s. Organisational co-ordination, division of local responsibilities and education of personnel became a supplement to technology to obtain further pollution reductions. The technician as the “environmental hero” of the firm was successively replaced by the organisational co-ordinator.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Ekonomisk historia , 2007. , 254 p.
Umeå studies in economic history, ISSN 0347-254X ; 36
Keyword [en]
business history, environmental history, company strategies, Porter hypothesis., industrial pollution, copper smelting, environmental adaptation, environmental regulation, technological development, environmental technology, state-firm interaction, learning processes
National Category
Economic History
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-1375ISBN: 978-91-7264-386-4OAI: diva2:140796
Public defence
2007-10-19, S205h, Samhällsvetarhuset, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:15 (English)
Available from: 2007-09-28 Created: 2007-09-28 Last updated: 2009-10-01Bibliographically approved

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