Resources Science ›› 2020, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (7): 1372-1383.doi: 10.18402/resci.2020.07.13

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The logics, paths, and effects of public participation in environmental management

GUO Jin1(), XU Yingzhi2   

  1. 1. School of Business, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing 210023, China
    2. School of Economics & Management, Southeast University, Nanjing 211189, China
  • Received:2019-06-27 Revised:2020-07-24 Online:2020-07-25 Published:2020-09-25


As an essential stakeholder of environmental resource, the public has become the third force that assists in promoting environmental governance together with local governments and polluting enterprises. Considering the advantages of public participation in solving the problem of information asymmetry and improving the supervisory role of public opinion, this study expounded the theoretical logics and paths of exercising public participation in environmental management. Then, we divided public participation into complaints that focus on back-end management and suggestions that focus on front-end management, and constructed an inter-provincial balance panel data set of China from 2011 to 2015 to evaluate the effect of public participation in environmental management. The results indicated that: (1) In the ternary environmental management system consisting of local governments, enterprises, and the public, on the one hand, public participation relied on government environmental enforcement to force polluting enterprises to internalize external costs, and thus indirectly take part in local environmental management. On the other hand, its deterrent effect on polluting enterprises could also produce similar effect as government environmental enforcement, to promote environmental management directly. (2) The two types of public participation showed heterogeneous environmental management effects. Public participation’s effect in promoting environmental management was mainly reflected in complaints as a representative of back-end management, while the effect of suggestions as a representative of front-end management did not pass the significance test. (3) Public participation’s effect in promoting environmental management was further enhanced after adopting instrumental variables to alleviate the endogeneity problem. This study also found that residents’ average education level had a significant positive effect on public participation. At last, some suggestions were offered to expand the level of public participation in environmental management.

Key words: public participation, environmental management, information asymmetry, social supervision, environmental enforcement