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Corporate Environmentalism and the Canadian Golf Industry

Brian Wilson University Of British Columbia



Environmentalists, researchers, and others have expressed concern about the impacts of chemicals used on golf courses on wildlife and humans and implications of course construction for natural habitats. In Canada, environment-related ministries responded to these concerns by referring to golf courses in policies focused on (for example) water conservation and pesticide use. Sport Canada policies currently remind event managers to “ comply with all environmental laws and federal principles on sustainable development, ” and the 2002 Canadian Strategy for Ethical Conduct in Sport identifies “environmental sustainability” as an “issue of concern.”

The golf industry’s most pronounced/publicized response to these concerns has been the implementation of environmentally-friendly practices on golf courses. At the same time, golf’s governing bodies have highlighted the need for pro-environment practices – designing voluntary guidelines/certifications for association members. Importantly, industry members/affiliates are marketing pro-environment positions in environment reports and advertising. These developments are part of what is known as “corporate environmentalism.”

Few studies, however, focus on golf-industry decision-making around environmental issues and its corporate environmentalist practices. To address these gaps, this study aims to: (a) identify influences on golf industry decisions to adopt corporate environmentalist stances; and (b) examine how and the extent to which environmental practices are integrated into the industry’s organizational culture(s). The study is guided by conceptual work that is sensitive to the implications of “deregulation” (e.g., of industry activities) by government. The study is also influenced by conceptual work on institutional change that will guide a “mapping” of influences on industry. The following methods will be used: (1) Document analysis with a focus on circumstances surrounding the appearance of environment-related material in golf industry trade publications and environmental reports; and (2) Interviewswith golf superintendents and representatives from insurance companies, golf’s governing bodies, activist groups, and government. Practical objectives include offering policy-relevant feedback to government agencies.

SIRC is funded by Canadian Heritage