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SEA and strategy formation theories: from three Ps to five Ps

  • Aleh Cherp
  • Alan Watt
  • Vadim Vinichenko
Publishing year: 2007
Language: English
Pages: 624-644
Publication/Series: Environmental Impact Assessment Review
Volume: 27
Issue: 7
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Elsevier

Abstract english

A transition to environmentally sustainable societies should involve a significant and comprehensive —

strategic—change. Much of the promise of SEA is associated precisely with its perceived capacity to facilitate

such a strategic transformation by influencing selected ‘strategic decisions’. This paper examines the potential

effectiveness and limitations of such an approach in light of contemporary organizational strategy theories. Most

of these theories separate ‘strategies’ from ‘decisions’ and also transcend the notion of strategies as formal plans,

policies and programs (PPPs). Instead, they consider strategies as “five Ps”, adding “Position”, “Perspective”,

“Pattern” and “Ploy” to the “Plan”. Lessons from organizational strategy formation give rise to the following

challenges for SEA theory and practice:

1. How to assess and influence informal as well as formal aspects of strategic initiatives?

2. How to extend SEA ‘beyond decisions’ to address ‘emergent strategies’ where strategic action is not

necessarily preceded by a decision?

3. How to ensure that knowledge provided as a result of SEA is strategically relevant and communicated to

key players in strategy formation?

4. How to deal with an uncontrollable and unpredictable environment in which strategic initiatives unfold?

5. How to recognize those situations when SEA can have most strategic influence?

This paper takes a step towards examining these challenges by exploring the intellectual history of SEA

in light of the main strategy formation theories and by identifying directions in which the SEA discourse

may be further enhanced to meet these five challenges.


  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Strategy
  • SEA
  • Strategic initiatives
  • Strategy formation theories
  • Emergent strategy
  • Environmental Assessment
  • Strategic Environmental Assessment


  • ISSN: 0195-9255
Aleh Cherp
E-mail: aleh [dot] cherp [at] iiiee [dot] lu [dot] se

International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE)

Lund University P.O. Box 196, 22100 Lund, Sweden
Visiting Address: Tegnérsplatsen 4,Lund

Telephone: + 46 46 222 00 00 Fax: + 46 46 222 02 10