New Report: Building Effective Environmental Policy

Nov 29, 2011 1:00 PM ET

(3BL Media / theCSRfeed) November 29, 2011 - Governments that want their climate change policies to actually work should consider the findings of a new report published by the Network for Business Sustainability. 

After a year-long review of more than 200 studies evaluating the success of environmental policies worldwide, a Canadian research team working with NBS, has identified three key features of effective environmental policies: mandatory reporting, financial instruments and flexible implementation. 

According to the reviewed studies, mandatory over voluntary reporting is preferable. Carleton University’s Graeme Auld, an assistant professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration and a co-author of the report says: “When policies require companies to report their progress toward emissions reduction, for example, the studies we examined found greater positive results [57 percent success rate] compared to policies that ask for voluntary reporting only [9 percent success rate].”  

Policies that include financial instruments rather than regulation also prove more effective. When money is used as a stick (e.g. carbon taxes), a carrot (e.g. subsidies) or both (e.g. emissions trading), the documented studies founded that polices were effective nearly 60 percent of the time (compared to 45 percent success rate for regulations). And, those policies that had built-in flexibility – that is, they give companies a choice in how to achieve a specific environmental goal – had more success than policies with rigid design.  

“Business and government objectives may be aligned at the highest levels,” says Tima Bansal, executive director of NBS, a nonprofit that oversees research whose findings can be used by business to embrace sustainability. “Government and business generally want to improve environmental outcomes, but do it in such a way that’s efficient, fair, and cost-effective for taxpayers.”

A full discussion of building effective environmental policy can be found in the Systematic Review: When Do Climate Policies Work? A Systematic Review of Experiences from Low-Carbon Technology Promotion and Water Management. A condensed Executive Report has been designed to help decision-makers in government and industry develop and advise on environmental policy.


When Do Climate Policies Work? A Systematic Review of Experiences from Low-Carbon Technology Promotion and Water Management (116 pages)
Building Effective Environmental Policy: A Guide for Decision-makers (22 pages)

The Network for Business Sustainability is a not-for-profit organization that connects business leaders and academic experts worldwide to devise new business models for the 21st century. NBS is located at the Richard Ivey School of Business (at The University of Western Ontario) in London, Canada and at the Université du Québec à Montréal. NBS is funded primarily by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, with additional support from industry partners.