Rethinking Voluntary Approaches in Environmental Policy

Rethinking Voluntary Approaches in Environmental Policy

Rory Sullivan

The book systematically analyses three initiatives (environmental management systems, the Australian Greenhouse Challenge and the Australian mining industry’s Code for Environmental Management) and their contribution to public environmental policy. By moving the debate away from narrow considerations of economic efficiency towards a broader framework that accounts for the multiple goals to which environmental policy needs to be directed, this book significantly enhances our understanding of the role that voluntary approaches can play in achieving environmental policy goals.

Chapter 8: Discussion

Rory Sullivan

Subjects: business and management, management and sustainability, environment, environmental management


LESSONS FROM THE CASE STUDIES Environmental Effectiveness One of the most striking features of the three voluntary approaches considered in Chapters 5, 6 and 7 is that there are such limited data to enable environmental effectiveness to be assessed. While there are some moves towards more standardized approaches to reporting, it has taken around seven or eight years for these concerns about data availability to be acted on. The delays in responding can, not unreasonably, be seen both as an indictment of the willingness of the participating organizations to be properly transparent and as a lack of engagement with, and responsiveness to, legitimate stakeholder concerns. A related issue has been that the performance measures or targets that have been set do not enable performance to be adequately assessed by outside parties. A good example is the Greenhouse Challenge with its focus on emissions abatement. While emissions abatement is an important measure of the effectiveness of greenhouse policies, a focus on emissions abatement means that the real measure of policy performance (that is, total greenhouse gas emissions) has been obscured. There are signs that this is changing, with participating organizations now required to report on total emissions as well as emissions abatement. However, the Australian Greenhouse Office retains its focus on emissions abatement as the primary measure of its policy initiatives in this area. The three case studies appear to confirm the general concern that the targets specified in voluntary approaches are less stringent than the targets that would have been...

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