Environmental Progress:

What every Executive Should Know (No. 15)



A new paper challenges conventional wisdom about the role of business in environmental issues. Written primarily for business executives, it offers new ideas for addressing environmental challenges while keeping a principled commitment to market competition, consumer choice, and innovation.

"Environmental Progress: What Every Executive Should Know," by Lynn Scarlett of the Reason Foundation and Jane S. Shaw of PERC, makes such points as:

  • The search for profits leads to conservation and reduction of pollution.
  • Business is not the central cause of environmental problems.
  • Environmental harm can be traced to two major problems: Open access to unowned resources and the inability of people to defend their common-law rights against harm from pollution.
  • Rhetoric about "polluter pays," "the precautionary principle," and "market-based" environmentalism is often shallow.
  • In many cases, decentralization and performance standards would improve regulation.

Reason Foundation, which also supported the paper, is a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles that is committed to public policies that reflect the rule of law and personal responsibility.

Before joining PERC, Jane Shaw was a journalist who had developed an uneasy feeling that much of the commentary about environmental policy that she read--and even some that she wrote--was tilted in the wrong direction. The usual solution to an environmental problem was to turn it over to the government. She had become uncomfortable with this...
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