Voluntary Environmental Investment and Responsive Regulation

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Instances of corporate voluntary environmental investments have been rising in recent years. Motivations for such activities include corporate image building, regulatory preemption, and production cost savings. While some of these investments arise from industry attempts to set environmental standards where none currently exist, many investments seem to be aimed at reducing the costs of complying with existing regulations. Using a simple game-theoretic model, we investigate firm motivations for, and welfare consequences of, these types of voluntary investments by focusing on the role regulatory enforcement might play. We find that such investments unambiguously increase when an enforcement regulator acts as a Stackelberg follower (a regulatory structure we refer to as responsive regulation) in setting its monitoring and enforcement strategy. These additional investments may be socially undesirable, necessitating a restructuring of non-compliance penalties.

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