Environmental Management

3. The evolution of environmental policy and regulation 

A key consideration for governments is to determine how stringent environmental policy and regulation should be. During the 1970s, governments frequently pursued a ‘command and control’ approach to environmental management through the adoption of specific environmental laws and policies. However, this approach was often criticised by economists and industry for being inflexible and costly.

During the 1980s and 1990s, policy makers started favouring market-based instruments for environmental regulation. These are often divided in two: price-based, meaning a fiscal incentive such as a carbon tax; and, trade-based - a cap-and-trade system such as the European Union's Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). 

The 1990s also gave rise to voluntary commitments such as Environmental Management Systems (EMS) which are now frequently adopted by industry players to improve their environmental performance beyond the level required by law. One example of a voluntary commitment is the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) standard ISO14001. ISO14001 is one of the most popular standards within the ISO family due to the high demand for straightforward criteria to effective environmental management.