Government Consultations

 Professional & Practice Publications


 Consultation Responses



 Academic Papers

 Policy Papers

 Knowledge Exchange outputs


Mainstreaming the Environment Exploring pathways and narratives to improve policy and decision making

04 Aug 2023

Mainstreaming the Environment: Exploring pathways and narratives to improve policy and decision-making

Alister Scott | Rachel Holtby | Holly East | Aisling Lannin

Department of Geography andEnvironmental Sciences, NorthumbriaUniversity, Newcastle upon Tyne,

UK CorrespondenceAlister ScottEmail: Funding informationNatural Environment Research Council,Grant/Award Number: NE/R00398X/1


1. Mainstreaming is an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary endeavour of normalisingan idea from one policy domain into the decision-makingand routine activitiesof other policy domains necessary for effective delivery over the long term.

2. The desire to mainstream springs from an increasing acceptance of the need forinterdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches to tackle key societal challengessuch as climate change and biodiversity decline. Here, traditional policy and disciplinarysilos are broken down to pursue and deliver more holistic interventions.

3. This paper offers an additionality perspective to mainstreaming based on fourquestions. What is mainstreaming and what additionality does it offer for environmentalpolicy and practice? What theoretical insights emerge from the mainstreamingand associated literatures? How can mainstreaming processes andoutcomes be conceptualised and assessed? How can we improve future environmentalmainstreaming pathways?

4. Building from literatures focussed on mainstreaming and policy integration, weconstruct a framework and supporting narrative focussing on the lifecycle dynamicsof mainstreaming pathways; a significant research gap. Their nonlinearprogress is captured using theoretical adaptations of diffusion of innovation andsustainability, moving from initial innovation through to persuasion and to acceptancepathways, with progress dependent on the interplay and impacts of hooksand barriers and the degree of collaboration and system change pursued.

5. Our narrative is further illuminated using natural capital and ecosystem serviceswhich reveal that while some progress has been made primarily through weakermainstreaming pathways, current efforts are still focussed on ‘persuading’ stakeholdersof the environment's value, rather than on initial framing and governancearrangements to maximise future impact.

6. We conclude that the framing and development of natural capital and ecosystemservices primarily in the environment and economic sectors has limitedmainstreaming activity to wider audiences due to the lack of interdisciplinary andtransdisciplinary approaches being pursued from the outset, including a more publicly and professionally accessible vocabulary and collaborative governanceand decision-makingstructures.

7. We contend that our lifecycle narrative, with a focus on multiple pathways, hooks,barriers and collaboration makes a useful contribution to understanding mainstreamingdynamics and characteristics from which improved interventions can bedeveloped.


All comments are greatly appreciated - please help mainstream green infrastructure by adding to the conversation.