Environmental Justice Meaning, Principles, Objectives and Types

Environmental Justice is the equal treatment and involvement of all sociocultural and geographical denominations of the human population, in issues related to environmental conservation and sustainable development. This article discusses environmental justice meaning, principle, objectives, examples and types, according to the following outline;


-Environmental Justice Meaning : 8 Ways to Define Environmental Justice

-Principles of Environmental Justice

-Objectives of Environmental Justice

-Examples of Environmental Justice

-Types of Environmental Justice







Environmental Justice Meaning : 8 Ways to Define Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice is the universal implementation of methods, regulations, equipment and policies to ensure that sustainability of the environment is achieved [1].

The term ‘universal’ which is used in the above definition, is used to denote a sense of ethical obligation and equity. This perspective is portrayed in the following definition of the concept;

Environmental Justice is the practice of ethical, sustainable and equitable use of environmental resources such as land, water and mineral deposits, in such a manner that mitigates unfavorable, unfair and unbalanced effects on some parts of the human population.

What this implies is that a lack of environmental justice exposes some parts of the human population (regions, communities) to potential harm as a result of environmental mismanagement [6]. Such a scenario can be described as ‘unfair’ since environmental degradation is a result of activities carried out by the entire human population.

In most cases, the harmful effects of environmental mismanagement are experienced the most by rural or developing populations which make the least contribution to the degradation.

Harmful effects of poor environmental practices, is an important factor within the context of environmental justice. The following definition further expresses this;

Environmental Justice is a social movement which aims to mitigate problems arising from global environmental degradation and the imbalance or inequity in the distribution of natural hazards and health problems associated with this phenomenon.

One of the causes of inequity in the distribution of hazardous consequences of global environmental degradation is an imbalance in the level of development across the globe. This can be seen in the fact that such hazards have the greatest effects among cultural minorities and economically-disadvantaged people [8].

Environmental Justice : Economically-Disadvantaged Populations are most Exposed to Effects of Environmental Degradation
Environmental Justice : Economically-Disadvantaged Populations are most Exposed to Effects of Environmental Degradation


Based on the above observation, it can be argued that a globalized approach to sustainable development can help in the fight for environmental justice, as further elaborated below;

Environmental Justice is the practice of implementing policies, values and regulations that are geared toward addressing environmental issues through the globalization of sustainable development.

It can be said that there are contextual links between sustainable development and human rights.

This is arguable because several of the sustainable development goals cover issues which are considered to be integral to observing fundamental human rights worldwide [11]. It is also arguable on the ground that environmental justice is a legal as well as social concept. The definition below highlights the link between environmental justice and fundamental human rights;

Environmental Justice is the equitable involvement, equipment and treatment of individuals and communities of all races, regions, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, with regards to environmental issues that affect their health, economy and national development.

While the definitions so far have all acknowledged that there are problems which environmental justice is designed to address, it will be equally helpful to outline a number of these problems, as done in the following definition;

Environmental Justice is the development and implementation of laws and practices to protect people of all cultural dispositions, from environmental problems and their effects, such as global warming, climate change (and related health problems), hunger, and food insecurity.

A scientific perspective can also be used to define environmental justice, especially as the concept is based on environmental issues;

Environmental Justice is the use of regulations and policies to enable people in all parts of the world to protect their environment and ecosystem from hazardous impacts of unsustainable practices, through environmental remediation, sustainable agriculture, soil conservation, stormwater pollution prevention, and energy conservation, among other practices.

Lastly, environmental justice meaning is given based on the technological measures involved, as follows;

Environmental Justice is the use of technological development to achieve global sustainability, through the proliferation of renewable energy, energy efficient technology, smart housing, electric vehicular technology, artificial intelligence and energy storage.


Principles of Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice is important because it aims to ensure the long-term survival of humanity and the global ecosystem as a whole, by addressing issues concerned with equity of environmental protection, health, economy and safety.

In the absence of environmental justice, a significant portion of humanity and the global ecosystem is at risk of potential extermination due to the activities of the entire human population. Environmental Justice also supports sustainable development through safe and efficient labor, land use, mining, agriculture, and energy production/consumption policies.

The seventeen (17) principles of environmental justice are (paraphrased) as follows;


1). Environmental Justice highlights the importance of environmental conservation, ecological sustainability and species interdependence

2). The development and implementation of public policy must be on the basis of equity, justice and mutual respect for people of all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, with no form of bias or discrimination

3). Utilization of natural resources like land and renewable energy sources, must be carried out in a responsible manner, based on ethical codes of conduct, and with consideration of the need for sustainability

4). Potentially hazardous practices like nuclear extraction, processing, testing, and disposal of all forms of toxic materials that are capable of causing environmental pollution, must be performed along with measures that protect the human populace from the effects of these practices

5). The fundamental right to self-determination in political, social and economic issues for all peoples, must be upheld

6). Production of toxic and hazardous materials must be reduced, and responsibility for pollution control and remediation (at the point of production) must be placed upon the producers of such materials

7). Equal rights of participation in all aspects of policy development including needs assessment, scheme development, evaluation and enforcement, should be given to all peoples

8). Workers’ right to a healthy and sage work environment should be upheld, without compromise of the economic prospects of labor. Effects of environmental hazards should be excluded from the workplace by all applicable measures

9). Healthcare and compensation for damages should be protected as a right held by all victims of environmental injustice

10). Acts of environmental injustice by government must be viewed as violations of the United Nations Convention on Genocide, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and International Law

11). Compacts, agreements and treaties must be used to affirm the natural and legal relationship of Native Peoples to the government of the United States

12). Environmental Protection policies are needed in rural and urban areas to protect and conserve natural resources

13). Regulations regarding informed consent should be enforced strictly, and the testing of medical and reproductive vaccinations and procedures on people of color should be stopped

14). Operational activities of multinational corporations which are harmful to the environment must be controlled

15). Military operations should not involve exploitation, repression and occupation of peoples’ lands and other resources

16). Present and future generations should be educated on environmental and social issues, with an inclusive approach to the diversity of perspectives on culture and resource-utilization

17). The consumption of natural resources should be done in a conservative manner, to prevent depletion and excessive waste production


Objectives of Environmental Justice

1). To ensure that all people are equally protected from the consequences of environmental mismanagement, as well as involved in the decision-making and implementation process of environmental policies and regulations

2). Prevention of unfair exposure of some cultural and geographical populaces to the hazards resulting from exploitation of environmental resources

3). Achievement of sustainable development through effective planning and utilization of methods that aid in environmental conservation

4). To facilitate improvements in the industrial and corporate sectors to protect workers from hazardous environmental factors at work

5). Raising awareness on ways to mitigate environmental degradation through training, research and development

6). To highlight the need to protect natural ecosystems


Examples of Environmental Justice

1). Environmental Justice to Address Unequal Racial Distribution of Environmental Risks [7]

An example of environmental justice is the development and implementation of regulations to address racial inequalities in terms of exposure of environmental risks.

Some of these risks include exposure to hazardous waste and pollution, as well as residence within areas that are most vulnerable to hazards like flooding.

Within this context, environmental justice involves the use of executive orders based on human and civil rights principles, to address the issue of inequality. Factors which are considered include geographic distribution of hazardous waste sites, waste management, as well as economic disposition and equality.

2). Environmental Justice with regard to Oil and Gas Pollution [2]

The use of legislature to address problems of pollution as a result of oil and gas exploration, is an example of environmental justice.

Such problems occur in oil-rich, developing regions like the Niger Delta. Here, industrial activities involved in the extraction of natural resources (oil and gas) lead to oil spills and toxic gaseous releases, which can cause environmental degradation.

Environmental Justice in this context, has to do with creating legal systems that are concerned with environmental protection, whereby exploration companies are charged to apply sustainable methods in their operations, and are held fully accountable for all exploration related environmental problems within their region of operation.  

3). Environmental Justice to ensure Fairness in Compensation to Affected Populations [9]

Another example of environmental justice is the effort to ensure that people affected by environmental injustice are fairly compensated.

Such people include victims of environmental hazards caused by mining and exploration, those who have suffered health problems as a result of industrial pollution, and communities with economic setbacks and social conflicts as a result of unsustainable resource exploitation in their region.

In this context, environmental justice efforts include regulations for fair compensation, sustainable industrial practices, healthcare and environmental remediation.


Types of Environmental Justice

The six main types of environmental justice are distributive, political, procedural, corrective, preventive and retributive environmental justice.

These types ate categorized based on context, and method of approach. They are discussed as follows;


-Types based on Context

1). Distributive Justice

Distributive Justice is a type of environmental justice that seeks to address the issue of equality in the distribution of environmental benefits as well as environmental problems, across all communities and populations of the world.

The concept and practice of distributive justice is an important aspect of environmental law [5], and is based on the ethical side of environmental management and sustainable development.

Some of the environmental benefits which should be equally distributed are renewable energy technology, sustainable agriculture and development. The environmental problems include consequences of environmental degradation, global warming and climate change such as flooding and pollution.

Basically, the ideology behind distributive justice is to ensure that fairness is applied in the manner of interaction between humans and their environment. It also aims to establish uniformity in the rate of development across all regions of the world.


2). Political Justice

As a type of environmental justice, political justice highlights the sociopolitical factors of importance with regards to the environment.

It may also be described as a political conception of environmental justice.

The function of political justice is to address broader issues with regards to the political aspects and implications of environmental justice, so as to ensure that efforts made to mitigate environmental injustice sufficiently handle sociopolitical and economic factors involved.  


3). Procedural Justice  

Procedural Justice has to do with an assessment of the fairness and suitability of legal procedures in the context of developing policies and regulations that protect the environment and the human populace.

The purpose of procedural justice is to ensure that a fair approach is applied in decision-making with regards to equitable environmental protection and inclusion.


-Types based on Method of Approach

4). Corrective Environmental Justice

Corrective Justice is a type of environmental justice which is hinged on the compensation of victims of environmental injustice by the guilty party, which may be an institution or community.

The ideology of corrective justice is to ensure that payment for damages is made in due proportion, to the victim [10]. This is in line with the concept of equality of distribution of both positive and negative aspects of the environment.


5). Preventive Environmental Justice

Preventive Justice is a type of environmental justice that deals with the development and implementation of legislature to prevent environmental degradation and exposure of the human population to environmental risks.

The role of this concept is to highlight and utilize the link between environmental justice and pollution prevention [3].

In combination with other types of environmental justice, preventive measures introduce a proactive perspective which makes it more effective to equally distribute environmental rights and protection.


6). Retributive Environmental Justice

Retributive justice is a type of environmental justice that emphasizes the use of disciplinary measures to punish parties guilty of environmental injustice, while granting restitution to victims.

It is based on an idealized theory of morals and retribution [1], and works together with corrective justice to ensure that a balanced state of fairness is achieved in scenarios of environmental injustice.



Environmental Justice refers to a socioeconomic movement that aims to address inequalities in the exposure to environment risks and the involvement in decision-making for sustainable development, across the entire human population.

The principles of environmental justice are designed to uphold the rights of all peoples to environmental protection, sustainability and resource conservation, while creating awareness on the existence and consequences of environmental injustice.

Examples of environmental justice are the development and enforcement of policies and regulations to reduce the unfair exposure of some parts of the human population to the environmental consequences of anthropogenic processes like mining, exploration, manufacturing and waste disposal.

The following are examples of environmental justice;

  1. Policy Development to Address Unequal Racial Distribution of Environmental Risks
  2. Regulations to Control Oil and Gas Pollution
  3. Legal Measures to ensure Fairness in Compensation to Affected Populations

Types of environmental justice are distributive, political, procedural, corrective, preventive and retributive environmental justice.



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2). Certomà, C.; Ojo, G. U.; William, S.; Greco, L.; Ojehri, O. N. O. A. (2013). “Digging deep corporate liability. Environmental Justice strategies in the world of oil.” Available at: https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.26427.00807. (Accessed 1 June 2022).

3). Gottlieb, R. (2001). “Linking Environmental Justice and Pollution Prevention: Livable Communities and Cleaner Production.” Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/241815890_Linking_Environmental_Justice_and_Pollution_Prevention_Livable_Communities_and_Cleaner_Production. (Accessed 1 June 2022).

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5). Kaswan, A. (2007). “Distributive Justice and the Environment.” Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228284232_Distributive_Justice_and_the_Environment. (Accessed 1 June 2022).

6). Landrigan, P. J.; Rauh, V. A.; Galvez, M. P. (2010). “Environmental Justice and the Health of Children.” Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine A Journal of Translational and Personalized Medicine 77(2):178-87. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/msj.20173. (Accessed 1 June 2022).

7). Mohai, P.; Pellow, D. N.; Roberts, J. T. (2009). “Environmental Justice.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources 34(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-environ-082508-094348. (Accessed 31 May 2022).

8). Morello-Frosch, R.; Zuk, M.; Jerrett, M.; Shamasunder, B.; Kyle, A. D. (2011). “Understanding The Cumulative Impacts Of Inequalities In Environmental Health: Implications For Policy.” Health Affairs 30(5):879-87. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1377/hlthaff.2011.0153. (Accessed 1 June 2022).


10). Weinrib, E. J. (2003). “Corrective Justice in a Nutshell.” University of Toronto Law Journal 52(4):349. Available at: https://doi.org/10.2307/825933. (Accessed 1 June 2022).

11). Yimbesalu, J. P.; Zakus, D. (2019). “The Sustainable Development Goals as human rights.” Expanding Perspectives on Human Rights in Africa (pp.121-137). Available at: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203761762-7. (Accessed 1 June 2022).

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