The role of non-governmental organizations in achieving environmental justice for green and blue spaces


Graziadio Business School

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Coalitions, Environmental justice, Green space, Nonprofits, Parks


The governance of green and blue spaces (GBS) has gradually shifted from public agencies to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) worldwide. Scholars have attributed this shift to the increased adoption of neoliberal governance involving reduced public spending for GBS. Although NGOs’ work on GBS has raised environmental justice (EJ) concerns, some GBS NGOs have formed to advanced EJ goals. To date, limited research has compared GBS NGOs striving to advance different EJ pursuits, namely distributional justice (equal provision of GBS), procedural justice (engagement of marginalized people in GBS decision-making), and interactional justice (meaningful experiences in GBS for marginalized people). Focusing on California, where NGO coalitions have achieved significant EJ victories, we examine which GBS NGO characteristics are associated with their involvement in different EJ pursuits. We identify 121 GBS NGOs working in coalitions and analyze their websites and tax returns to extract information about their EJ focus, scope of work, revenue, and other characteristics. We find that working in urban settings, having higher revenue, and having a smaller geographic scale of work are associated with the odds of coalition-member GBS NGOs working on distributional justice. Few NGO characteristics are associated with the odds of working on procedural and interactional justice, suggesting that a broader range of coalition-member NGOs work on these tasks than on distributional justice. We also find that significantly fewer GBS NGOs outside coalitions focus on EJ than NGOs in coalitions. These findings from California can inform funding agencies, NGO management, and GBS government agencies worldwide.

Publication Title

Landscape and Urban Planning