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The Regulation Dilemma: Cooperation and Conflict in Environmental Governance

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Potoski, Matthew; Prakash, Aseem
Date: 2002
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/5666
Sector: Theory
Social Organization
Subject(s): industry
governance and politics
Abstract: "Across the United States and around the world, businesses have joined voluntary environmental codes proposed by governments and nonstate actors. Many codes require firms to establish internal environmental management systems that seek to improve firms' environmental performance and compliance with mandatory regulations. At the same time, governments are also experimenting with programs that provide incentives for business to self-policies their regulatory compliance, and promptly report and correct regulatory violations. In light of these two trends, this paper examines how governments' approach to regulatory enforcement can influence firms' incentives to comply with mandatory environmental laws and to join voluntary codes that could take them beyond compliance. Our inquiry shows that cooperative regulatory enforcement, in which firms self-police their environmental operations and governments provide regulatory relief for voluntarily disclosed violations, yields optimal, 'win-win' outcomes only when both sides cooperate. If firms are likely to evade compliance, governments are better off adopting a deterrence approach. And, if governments insist on rigidly interpreting and strictly enforcing the law, firms may have strong incentives to evade regulations and/or not join voluntary codes. Cooperation, though not easy, is possible if both sides can credibly signal that they will forgo opportunism."

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