Voluntary action on the environment: Environmental care in the Netherlands

Business leaders emerged from the Earth Summit in Brazil pleased with their efforts to persuade policy-makers that voluntary action by industry can be more effective than regulation in securing environmental improvement. The voluntary approach is already being put to the test in the Netherlands, where the Government wants the 10,000 most polluting companies to have "environmental care" systems in place by 1995. But despite official threats that legislation will follow if companies do not comply, many firms have still to respond three years into the experiment. The initiative is nevertheless producing valuable lessons for other countries looking to capitalise on the voluntary approach.

Persuading manufacturing companies to integrate environmental concern into their business practices is a major policy priority for the governments of many industrialised countries. Business leaders, too, regard voluntary action by industry to improve standards of environmental protection as essential if tighter regulation is to be staved off.

UK approach
In the UK, the Government has been seeking to encourage firms to introduce

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