‘We cannot be at the forefront, changing society’: exploring how Swedish property developers respond to climate change in urban planning

Publisher's full text
Sofie Storbjörk
Mattias Hjerpe

It is increasingly expected that private actors play the role as entrepreneurs and front-runners in implementing climate measures, whereas empirical studies of the position, role and engagement of private actors are scarce. Situated in the context of urban planning, a critical arena for triggering climate transitions, the aim of this paper is to explore how Swedish property developers respond to climate change.

Qualitative analyses of corporate policy documents and semi-structured interviews with property developers reveal a vast divergence between the written policies, where leadership ambitions are high, and how the practice of property development is discussed in interviews. In the latter, there is little evidence of property developers pursuing a forward-looking or cutting-edge climate change agenda. Instead, they are critical of increased public regulation for climate-oriented measures. Explanations both confirm previous studies, highlighting lack of perceived customer demand, uncertainty of financial returns and limited innovations, and add new elements of place-dependency suggesting that innovative and front-runner practices can only be realized in the larger urban areas. Municipalities seeking to improve their climate-oriented profile in urban planning by involving private property developers need to develop strategies to maneuver the variance in responses to increase the effectiveness of implementation.

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