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Corporate governance and sustainability in water utilities. The effects of decorporatisation in the city of Naples, Italy

Massimiliano Agovino, Massimiliano Cerciello, Antonio Garofalo, Loris Landriani and Luigi Lepore

Business Strategy and the Environment, 2021, vol. 30, issue 2, 874-890

Abstract: The recent economic literature has largely investigated sustainability in the provision of public utilities, highlighting the role of governance models in the determination of economic results. Little attention however has been devoted to the social and environmental dimensions of sustainability. In Italy, a long‐lasting debate on governance structures in the water sector has been fuelled by scholars and policymakers for more than 30 years, whereas the first (and unique) experiment involving the return of full public management in water provision is taking place in the city of Naples. The present work analyses this peculiar case study, aiming to assess the effects of a major governance shift that occurred in the early 2010s—that is, decorporatisation—in terms of economic, social and environmental sustainability. We resort to a bundle of qualitative and quantitative techniques to address the research question and our exploratory results suggest that decorporatisation was overall beneficial: Although little changed in terms of economic sustainability, the social and environmental dimensions benefitted from the shift in governance.

Date: 2021
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