Environmental Progress: What every Executive Should Know

Thursday, April 1, 1999


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...
Read More > More Articles by Jane Shaw >
Lynn Scarlett is Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget in the U. S. Department of the Interior. She was formerly president of the Reason Foundation. With Jane S. Shaw, she wrote "Environmental Progress: What Every Business Executive Should Know," PERC Policy Series, PS-15.
More Articles by Lynn Scarlett >