Voluntary Instruments: A New Way for Environmental Regulation?

Revue Internationale de Droit Economique, Vol. 4, pp. 461-481, 2004

Posted: 10 May 2005

See all articles by Naoufel Mzoughi

Naoufel Mzoughi

INRA Ecodéveloppement

Gilles Grolleau

Montpellier SupAgro and Researcher at LAMETA

Luc Thiebaut

Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) - CESAER

Abstract

Despite the large use of the notion of voluntary approaches, economic literature is generally unassuming their definitions. Discussions about definitions are not unimportant quibbles over words and can change the way we think. Do voluntary approaches constitute a new form of regulation? The answer to this question is twofold. Firstly, we show that voluntary approaches are new to some extent, i.e. under specific aspects. Their originality is mainly related to (1) the intervention of new regulators, notably from the civil society, (2) extension of the covered fields, such as ethical and human rights tied with environmental considerations, and (3) large development of these approaches. Secondly, we challenge the traditional characteristics of voluntary approaches: their voluntary character; commitment to go beyond regulation; and promise of better economic efficiency (i.e. the minimization of the whole costs to achieve a result). We show that the voluntary character could be defined on a continuum going from the free agreed initiative determined by only the will of the agent to the pseudo or quasi-compulsory commitment due to external constraints. The analysis of the target and its achievement allows a critical appreciation of the capacity of voluntary approaches to generate better environmental effectiveness. Many arguments supporting the better economic efficiency generally attributed to voluntary approaches could be (1) associated to the traditional instruments to environmental regulation - command and control and market-based instruments, (2) questioned when revisited in depth, and (3) nuanced by empirical studies. This analysis allows us to stress the gap between theoretical arguments and reality, and highlights several implications in term of economic policy. The issues developed in this paper constitute a challenging topic for further research.

Keywords: Voluntary instruments, Environmental effectiveness, Economic efficiency, Environmental management, Regulation

JEL Classification: K32, Q28

Suggested Citation

Mzoughi, Naoufel and Grolleau, Gilles and Thiebaut, Luc, Voluntary Instruments: A New Way for Environmental Regulation?. Revue Internationale de Droit Economique, Vol. 4, pp. 461-481, 2004, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=717523

Naoufel Mzoughi (Contact Author)

INRA Ecodéveloppement ( email )

Domaine Saint-Paul - Site Agroparc
Avignon cedex 9, 84914
France

Gilles Grolleau

Montpellier SupAgro and Researcher at LAMETA ( email )

France

Luc Thiebaut

Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) - CESAER ( email )

26 Bd Dr Petitjean
Dijon Cedex, 21079
France

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